EDMONTON – The State of Minnesota charged Alberta MLA Mike Allen with a Gross Misdemeanor Friday after he was arrested in a prostitution sting Monday.
Legal documents say Allen, the MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, contacted an undercover officer posing as a prostitute on July 15, took a limo to her address, and agreed to pay $200 for sex.
Friday afternoon, he was formally charged with hiring, offering, or agreeing to hire to engage in prostitution in a public place.
The Gross Misdemeanor offense carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.
The Statement of Probable Cause, filed in the County of Ramsey, Minnesota, reads:
“On or about July 15, 2013, licensed peace officers with the Saint Paul Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit conducted a “John” sweep of the City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota. The sweep is designed to catch people who are looking to purchase sexual services from women either on the streets or online. In the latter case, a female undercover officer over the age of 18 years poses as a prostitute and posts advertisements on the website backpage.com under the Erotic Services section, offering sexual services for a price. The officer then fields calls from people interested in hiring her and gives them directions to her location. Once an interested person arrives, other police officers monitor their interactions electronically and intervene to arrest when necessary.
“At approximately 7:24 p.m., Michael Trent Allen, the defendant herein, called the undercover officer in response to her advertisement and asked to schedule an appointment. At the defendant’s request, the officer explained the various costs, the amount of time, and the numbers of available women. The defendant asked for the officer’s address and took a limo to her motel.
“At approximately 8 p.m., the defendant arrived at the motel, called the officer again, and went to her room. The defendant agreed to pay $200.00 in exchange for sexual intercourse with two women for one hour while wearing a condom. The defendant placed the cash on the counter and began to undress. The undercover officer have a predetermined bust signal, whereupon other officers entered the room and placed the defendant under arrest.”
Friday afternoon, Allen released a statement which read: “I am aware via media sources a gross misdemeanor charge has been laid by the State of Minnesota as expected. I am awaiting receipt of the documents so that I may review them with legal counsel and determine a course of action by the end of next week. I will of course comply with all requests made by the State.
“I would like to reiterate my apology to my family, my friends, my constituents, my colleagues, my staff, and to all Albertans for the embarrassment I have caused. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Allen was arrested in the undercover prostitution sting in St. Paul, Minnesota Monday night.
Allen has tendered his resignation from the Conservative Caucus.
St. Paul’s City Attorney Sara Grewing said Allen’s first court appearance is scheduled for September 30 in St. Paul.
“If done so in writing and approved by a judge, the defendant may waive his first appearance. But, typically, we expect the defendant … or his representative to be there. If he doesn’t show up then we would issue a warrant for his arrest,” explained Grewing.
St. Paul police told Global News that Allen was arrested following a routine operation in which police look for individuals “trying to engage in the act of prostitution.”
“We worked through the channels of backpage.com and people who were trying to solicit prostitution on that particular website. At about 8 p.m. an individual by the name of Michael Allen was arrested after agreeing to…sexual services with undercover officers and in exchange for cash,” said Howie Padilla, spokesperson for the St. Paul police department.
Padilla added that Allen was taken into custody at the Ramsey County Jail Monday night, then released around 7:30 Tuesday morning. Allen has since returned to Alberta.
St. Paul attorney Sara Grewing said her office was reviewing Allen’s file for a possible Gross Misdemeanour charge of solicitation of prostitution. She said a conviction typically carries a 90-day jail term and a $1,000 fine, but a first-time offender could get a much lighter sentence.
The TwinCities.com media outlet in St. Paul writes: “Michael Trent Allen was one of 13 men nabbed during the operation, police reports show. The 51-year-old from Fort McMurray, Alberta, was booked into the Ramsey County jail on suspicion of engaging in prostitution, a gross misdemeanor.
Allen is listed as an attendee at the Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference, which began in St. Paul on Sunday and ends Wednesday.”
He was representing Alberta on official business in St. Paul, scheduled to talk trade and energy with U.S. legislators.
On Thursday, Premier Alison Redford said Allen had written a cheque to the government to reimburse it for the cost of the trip.
The Alberta MLA released a letter, which can be read in its entirety below, in regards to the situation. In it, he calls the “legal incident” that he was involved in “a mistake for which there are no excuses.” He says he accepts full responsibility for the “deeply embarrassing moment,” and asks for forgiveness.
“I apologize to my family, my friends, my constituents, my colleagues, my staff and to all Albertans for the embarrassment I have caused in failing to live up to the standards expected of me and the standards I expect of myself,” Allen writes.
Progressive Conservative Caucus Whip Steve Young has accepted Allen’s resignation from the government caucus.
While he thought Allen was “an excellent representative of Wood Buffalo,” Young admits he was shocked when Allen told him “he was involved in an incident involving a, uh..you know, an escort. And he was arrested in a ‘sting.’”
“Mike is a great person, but sometimes people do dumb things…we expect high standards, and this incident put that into question.”
Laurie Blakeman, Alberta’s Liberal House Leader, feels Allen’s actions are more than just a mistake or a lapse in judgement.
“It’s a betrayal…This is an individual who was lacking in a moral and ethical compass,” she says. “I can’t think of any nice thing to say about this situation. It’s a horror. And it reflects badly on every MLA – including me – and I really resent that.”
Alberta’s Official Opposition is calling for Allen to resign from his seat in the Legislative Assembly so that a by-election could be held in his riding of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.
“For an MLA to behave in this manner while travelling abroad on government business is unacceptable,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith says.
“Mr. Allen has broken the trust of Fort McMurray voters,” adds Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson. “He promised to represent them with integrity and honour and the people elected him on that basis. The fact that he has been arrested in a foreign country while representing his province and community, and has confirmed that he did indeed do what he had been accused of, it is only proper to allow the residents of Fort McMurray to have the opportunity to select a new representative who will uphold the dignity of the office.”
NDP leader Brian Mason argues, though, that there’s plenty of time to sort out those issues.
“I think that the real immediate tragedy is the impact on his family. With that mind, I think it’s a very distasteful incident. I believe that issues of caucus participation or resignation or by-elections…can wait. So I’m going to refrain from piling on here because at least for the summer time I think Mr. Allen and his family need to be the priority.”
Allen is a rookie MLA. He was elected in April 2012, and soon after was appointed by Premier Alison Redford as a special advisor for Highway 63. He also served two terms as councillor in Fort McMurray and two terms as president of Fort McMurray’s Chamber of Commerce.
With files from Laurel Clark and Fletcher Kent, Global News