Brian O’Nora opted out of umpiring in the 2020 season, and baseball hardly missed him. According to Bloomberg Businessweek’s Umpire Auditor, from 2012-19, O’Nora had a correct call rate of 87 percent, the same percentage as notoriously lousy umps Joe West and Kerwin Danley, and a point worse than the gold standard of terrible umpiring, Angel Hernandez.
Staying home this year wound up leading to the worst call O’Nora has made to date, going online and getting caught up in what the Ohio attorney general’s office called “a single-day human trafficking operation that targeted individuals seeking to buy sex via the internet.”
O’Nora and 13 other men were arrested and charged with possessing criminal tools and soliciting. Which means that O’Nora now knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of some bullshit from the men in blue.
Soliciting is a third-degree misdemeanor in Ohio. Outside of any debate on the criminality of sex work, the real nonsense here is the possessing criminal tools charge, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Statute 2923.24 in Ohio, on the books since 1996, says that “no person shall possess or have under the person’s control any substance, device, instrument, or article, with purpose to use it criminally,” and that evidence of criminal purpose includes “possession or control of any substance, device, instrument, or article designed or specially adapted for criminal use.” In a case like this, the criminal tool would be a computer, specially adapted for criminal use by routing its web browser to wherever the suspects were looking for sex work.
Human trafficking is a real problem — one that severely and disproportionately affects Black girls and women — and important to deal with, but the grim thing about this allegation for O’Nora and the other men is that it connects them to the idea of human trafficking without any evidence whatsoever that they are involved in such a thing. These were 14 guys looking to pay for sex. That’s the allegation. That’s it.
There is no hint from the Ohio attorney general that O’Nora and the other men were seeking anything other than consensual sex for which they would have paid money. If there was a thought that anyone arrested was really involved in human trafficking, they wouldn’t have wound up getting charged with misdemeanors and been part of this annoucement.
“John stings deter those seeking to purchase sex — reducing the demand for human trafficking — and serve as a reminder that these crimes are more prevalent and closer to home than you may think,” Ohio AG Dave Yost said in the statement announcing the sting.
If it’s such a deterrent, you would think that this kind of sting operation would be unnecessary just a month and a half after Operation Autumn Hope, an actually useful use of law enforcement resources that resulted in dozens of missing children being rescued from human traffickers.
Operation Autumn Hope, according to Yost’s office, had four priorities:
- Rescuing victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services
- Recovering missing and exploited children
- Apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor
- Arresting male johns seeking to buy sex
One of those things is not like the others, but Yost conflated the issue in October when he proclaimed, “Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio. Don’t buy sex in Ohio!”
Prostitution is tied to human trafficking, to be sure, but they definitely are not the same thing. Had the cops come a-knockin’ when O’Nora’s van was a-rockin’ somewhere in Youngstown, and he’d charged with the same crimes (presumably, they’d call his van a “criminal tool”), in no way would his arrest be trumpeted as some victory in the fight against human trafficking. It would just be embarrassing news that a major league umpire got busted like Hugh Grant.
Maybe instead of conducting stings over third-degree misdemeanors and trumping up their charges to first-degree misdemeanors, Ohio law enforcement should spend some time working on its problem with murdering unarmed Black people. O’Nora has some embarrassment and a legal headache over having attempted to pay money for consensual sex. Meanwhile, Casey Goodson is dead.