'Nice Guys' ringleader accused of hiring prostitute

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2012 - 10:29 PM

John St. Marie, who was spared prison time in the prior case for health reasons, was charged after allegedly arranging to see a prostitute.

John St. Marie

Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff,

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John St. Marie, who was convicted in 2010 of running a prostitution ring for well-to-do men who dubbed themselves the "Minnesota Nice Guys," was caught last month by police allegedly ordering a prostitute for himself at a cost of $600.

Because St. Marie is in a wheelchair and needs extensive health care, the judge who sentenced him in the earlier case decided not to send him to prison, noting in part the huge medical costs his incarceration would entail. St. Marie, 68, had made a plea agreement with the Ramsey County attorney's office.

But the prostitution charge filed Friday is a violation of his probation. And again, a judge will have to consider St. Marie's health when deciding how to handle the violation.

"The new charge wasn't something that was anticipated," said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office. "We have to wait until we have the facts in front of us, but a judge will have to review St. Marie's status and make a determination. We don't know what will come of this."

St. Marie, a former assistant Hennepin County attorney, couldn't be reached for comment. His attorney, Dave Roston, said it was too early to comment on the case.

St. Marie needs round-the-clock health care, which he receives at his home in Minneapolis. He uses a wheelchair because of childhood polio, and can move only his neck and a finger on his left hand. Post-polio syndrome forced him to retire in 2003.

If a judge decides St. Marie should be held in custody for the probation violation, it's unclear whether he could be cared for in a jail or would have to be placed in a nursing home. When Ramsey County District Judge Rosanne Nathanson sentenced him last year, she said "incarceration is out of the question in this case." She added: "It wouldn't serve the community."

At that sentencing, St. Marie apologized to the judge for his weakness of character and to the prosecutor for putting her in an awkward spot. He apologized to his wife, his colleagues in Hennepin County and "other persons deserving of my apology." He never acknowledged the women victimized by the prostitution ring.

"I have no acceptable answers for myself or my behavior, other than to say I was very depressed and lonely after my medical condition required me to take early retirement and then saddled me with a tracheotomy and ventilator for the rest of my life," he said at the hearing.

St. Marie was placed on probation for up to 15 years and had to attend a "john school" for prostitution offenders.

The case against St. Marie and the "Nice Guys" started in July 2008 and lasted more than a year. Police said St. Marie built a client list of 30 business owners, lawyers, accountants and mortgage bankers who met women at some of Minneapolis' finest hotels. The group got its name because members had clean backgrounds, regarded themselves as above mistreating the women and paid well, police said.

On Friday, St. Marie was charged with a gross misdemeanor prostitution charge in Hennepin County Court. Minneapolis police were notified by a Ramsey County probation officer that St. Marie had set up an appointment with a prostitute at a downtown Minneapolis hotel in April, according to court documents. As part of his probation, his computer was monitored at all times.

St. Marie was arrested at the hotel, and police found an envelope containing $599, the documents said. He told police he "wanted companionship" because he gets frustrated, and said that he knew his activity was being monitored and that he was stupid, the documents said.

Jim Dahlquist, who helped represent St. Marie in the "Nice Guys" case, said his health will again be a factor in how the new charge is handled.

"You are talking to a person who is saddened to hear this," he said. "I was sad with the original dilemma he was in."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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