Two Non-Johns

Another acquitted mug shot man speaks out against his Daily News debut.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 11, 2004

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It was after 2 a.m. on Valentine's Day, and Mark Roane was working the late shift.

The 29-year-old tow truck driver and father of three from North Philadelphia had just been dispatched to the parking lot of a 7-Eleven on the 3300 block of Kensington Avenue. He found an attractive woman in a sweat suit and sneakers standing in the cold.

The woman approached the truck.

"I had the dispatcher on the radio," says Roane. "This woman came up to me, so I asked her if it was her car I was getting ready to tow."

Seconds later cops descended. Roane was pulled from his truck and hauled off to jail.

The woman was not a stranded motorist but rather an undercover Philadelphia Police Department Vice Squad officer. Roane had happened upon a prostitution sting.

In a June 21 court date, Officer Geneane Merritt testified that Roane had blurted out to her, "I want sex."

Roane, who has a record of other offences--none of them solicitation--denied saying anything similar to that and pleaded not guilty.

The judge found Officer Merritt's testimony not credible and dismissed all charges against Roane.

End of story, right?

Wrong.

The sting was part of a series of undercover prostitution raids carried out by police after Carla Anderson, the Daily News' "Urban Warrior," penned a Feb. 13 cover story detailing the escalating problem of prostitution in residential neighborhoods like Kensington, Frankford, Port Richmond and other river ward communities.

That story and a follow-up series headlined "Invasion of the Hookers" garnered such positive response from fed-up readers that Anderson decided to take further action.

"I'm trying to do my part, too," she wrote in a March 2 column. "By telling you the names of the alleged johns caught in this crackdown--as some residents have asked, believing this will help end the parade of public sex in their neighborhoods."

As part of her "campaign of deterrence," Anderson promised to publish the names and mug shots of those arrested in the sting.

The police were initially reluctant to hand them over.

"I'm not going to be party to some guy hanging himself in a jail cell because his name got printed in the newspaper," said a police department public affairs officer at the time.

Roane's mug shot ran April 14, three weeks before he had a chance to plead his case before a judge.

"That hurt me real bad," says Roane in a beaten voice. "I lost my family and my business."

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