WORTHINGTON — Shortly before the close of business Thursday, Worthington businessman Larry Davis entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution.
The plea resulted in a cancellation of the jury trial that was scheduled for Friday. Instead, Davis appeared for a combined plea and sentencing hearing.
Davis, 72, was arrested in January 2020 after an undercover Worthington police officer came into contact with him on the app Grindr. While exchanging messages, Davis asked the officer, who he believed to be an adult male, "You ever hook up with older for cash?"
Davis agreed to pay the undercover officer $50 in exchange for a sex act, and the two met outside the Nobles County Library in Worthington. After verbally confirming Davis's intentions, the officer revealed his true identity, and Davis was arrested and booked into jail.
Early in the court proceedings, Davis entered a plea of not guilty, and has maintained his innocence since his arrest. His Thursday plea includes an Alford addendum, indicating that while Davis asserts a different version of events than what law enforcement reported, he believes that if he were to take the case to trial, there's a strong likelihood a jury would find him guilty given the evidence presented.
Fifth Judicial District Judge Christina Wietzema explained during Friday's hearing that for Davis's charge, Minnesota law imposes a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and a maximum possible sentence of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
The prosecution asked Wietzema to sentence Davis to 90 days in jail with a stay of execution in favor of one year of unsupervised probation and a $500 fine.
State law also allows for defendants found guilty of soliciting prostitution to be ordered to pay a penalty assessment of $500 to $750, 40% of which goes toward the Safe Harbor Regional Navigators, a program that aids victims of sex trafficking. Locally, the Southwest Crisis Center administers the program.
"If Mr. Davis has money to spend on people he thinks are prostitutes, then he has money to be spent on an assessment for a worthy cause," Assistant Nobles County Attorney Braden Hoefert said.
Hoefert asked Wietzema to impose the maximum $750 assessment, and the defense asked for the minimum of $500. Wietzema split the difference and ordered Davis to pay a $600 assessment.
She also agreed to the other sentencing terms ordered, and sentenced Davis to 90 days in jail with a stay of execution, allowing him to serve one year of unsupervised probation, and a $500 fine.