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EMU vice president charged in sting operation

1.9. 2016 Written By: Hannah Heinzekehr 20,054 Times read

Photo: Luke Hartman, vice president of enrollment at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Update:  A district court judge in Harrisonburg, Va., dismissed the solicitation of prostitution charge against Luke Hartman on March 29, according to WHSV-TV reporter Katie Caler. The judge dismissed the case because the statutes for the charge were not met when a specific act was not discussed before money was allegedly exchanged. Read the full report. 

Luke Hartman, vice president of enrollment at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Va., was charged Jan. 8 with solicitation of prostitution. In a statement released Jan. 9, EMU announced Hartman’s suspension, effective immediately. Hartman was one of 10 individuals charged as part of a sting operation conducted by the Harrisonburg Police Department and Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Lieutenant Chris Rush of the Harrisonburg Police Department, Hartman was charged and released with a summons to appear back in court at a later date. In a Jan. 9 phone call, Rush said that this undercover operation was part of ongoing investigations in the Harrisonburg area.

Hartman began his role as a vice president at EMU in August 2011. Prior to this role, he served as assistant principal at Skyline Middle School in Harrisonburg and an educational consultant for Harrisonburg City Public Schools.

Hartman also served as associate director of admissions, men’s varsity basketball coach and taught in the education department at Hesston (Kan.) College from 1996-2004. He was also a popular speaker at Mennonite Church USA conventions, speaking most recently at the Phoenix 2013 gathering.

In a Jan. 8 email to members of the EMU campus community, President Loren Swartzendruber acknowledged the media reports of Hartman’s arrest and wrote, “I invite your prayers for EMU leadership, Luke, and his family as implications are processed.”

Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency, echoed the call to prayer for the Hartman family and also urged members of the Mennonite community to pray for EMU. “This is a very difficult time,” said Romero in a Jan. 9 phone call. “It’s a time when I would invite everyone to pray for President Loren Swartzendruber and all the members of EMU’s community.”

Jan. 12 Update: Luke A. Hartman, vice president for enrollment at Eastern Mennonite University, submitted his resignation Jan. 11, 2016. Read the full statement from EMU.

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30 Responses to “EMU vice president charged in sting operation”

  1. Ruth Yoder Wenger says:

    So very sad. Our prayers uphold all who are caught into this situation.

    • Lisa Pierce says:

      Thanks, Ruth, for expanding the call to prayer to include all involved, as prostituted people were conspicuously absent from the calls to prayer coming from EMU and MEA. Too often, people think of prostitution as a victimless crime, or–as we in the church are apt to do–people focus on the sexual infidelity only. Research shows that most prostituted people are coerced or forced into the sex “trade,” and the average age of entry into prostitution is 13. Thirteen years of age! Let that soak in. So sure, let’s pray for Luke and his family and EMU, but let’s also pray for the girls, boys, women, and men who are trafficked for profit and predation.

      • Lisa Pierce says:

        And before, after, and during our prayers, let’s take concrete actions to confront and transform the culture that makes the prostitution of children and teenagers possible.

    • Keary Larson says:

      Thank you Lisa.

      I’m stunned that the prayers wouldn’t first go out to the Victims of the horrific sexual trafficking and abuse victims. But as long as the prayers get there it doesn’t matter the order .. ; )

      There is some overlap with this type of behavior and a story from a poor woman who’s basically been exposed to terrible treatment and abuse, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

      My biggest problem is the complete lack of compassion for the victims (on the part of the attacker most of all).

  2. Debra Bender says:

    A few points of clarification. First, if Hartman got caught in an organized sting operation, this wasn’t the first time he was out trolling. And isn’t he the same guy who was such good friends with the school officer in SC who threw the girl across the room? This is who MC USA thinks should speak to young people at convention? Time for him to go.

    Second, I’m a little confused about requests for prayer for “the prostitutes.” This was a law enforcement sting operation. The “prostitutes” were female officers in disguise. Pray for the officers’ safety and long life if you like, but understand that in police sting operations officers pretending to be prostitutes – not real prostitutes – are the players used to catch slime balls like Hartman. Congrats to the Harrisonburg police and the Rockingham County Sheriff for a job well done! Full disclosure: I’m married to a retired Chicago cop who dealt with women of the street almost every day, in some pretty innovative and imaginative ways.

    • Lisa Pierce says:

      I’m well aware this was a sting. I’ve been following the progress of the DoJ’s Nationwide John Supression Initiative and some other local efforts to address sex trafficking.

      We pray for and work for justice for all involved because there would be no need for John stings if no one were prostituted.

  3. Merle Snyder says:

    Whatever else happens, this guy is guilty of nothing in our system until he pleads guilty or is convicted. His pay should continue until that time, if it arises. Otherwise Swartzendruber himself, for example, can be hauled in by cops on little or no evidence.

  4. Chad Layman says:

    Hypocrisy. My guess is this isn’t the first time he has hired a prostitute.

    • Alan Weldy says:

      I have never met Luke and have no connection to EMU. What an opportunity for EMU and the church to demonstrate grace and to work at redemptive / restorative justice.

  5. Frank Lostaunauy says:

    There are many Anabaptist Mennonite Pastors (male) who have sexually abused children/vulnerable adults and their names have not been published?

    Because they are “white”?

    I strongly recommend that for the safety of all children/vulnerable adults, that their names be made public so that all communities of faith are safer.

    To protect children, families, and communities, we must work to maintain a safe community environment. The protection of the most vulnerable must come first.

    • Debra Bender says:

      Respectfully, I think we have to make a distinction between a man (and I use the term lightly) who publically attempts to procure the sexual services of a prostitute in a transaction that includes payment of money and the actions of a trusted church leader who secretly, serially, sexually abuses and then threatens anyone who might report him. Both are awful and illegal and immoral and should be named and rooted out; however, I think there’s a big difference between the actions of Luke and those of John Howard. And, while I’d be the first to say so if I thought it were so, I don’t believe there’s a racial element here. Hartman got caught in a planned public law enforcement sting; EMU had no choice but to suspend him once his name was published in the local media.

  6. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Sexual violence is physically, emotionally, and spiritually devastating.

    Having been raped between the ages of 5-7, I am grateful to be alive.

    I am not concerned with your distinctions. It hurts for a lifetime and it often leads to the suicide of the victims.

    Whenever a Survivor decides to pursue litigation, my advice is to go for it.

    Word games are way of shifting the focus away from sexual predators while pretending to be in support of the child/vulnerable adult the sexual violence.

    Have you ever been raped and by whom? A Pastor, teacher, psychotherapist, police, social worker, a white man, coach, etc.?

  7. Frank Lostaunau says:

    I strongly believe that racism is pervasive with the Anabaptist Mennonite community.

  8. M. South says:

    Since SNAP had made a public call for anyone who has allegations or other knowledge to share about Mr. Hartman, his sudden resignation allows for minimizing or eliminating such an ongoing process of discovery. It might be that Mr. Hartman is so devastated by the consequences of these events that he feels it would be too much to undergo a SJW style inquisition, such as his former student the police officer endured.

  9. M. South says:

    As the “Jackie and Haven Monahan” case at the University of Virginia shows, there cannot be a rush to judgment based merely upon allegations, else innocent people can get swallowed up and destroyed by those bearing false witness.

    We are not well-served in the matter of protecting the vulnerable, by sexual McCarthyites waving about unverified lists of supposed sexual predators who have not been proven to have done anything wrong.

  10. John says:

    Disappointment is what comes to mind. Having heard Luke speak at conventions and church this is a let down for many who’ve followed his advice. On the other hand, lrt he/she who is without sin, pick up your stone. As one who fights battles daily, let me say no one is exempt from temptation.

  11. Frank Lostaunau says:

    I don’t know what you mean by “bearing false witness”?

    There’s research that clearly proves that humans lie. The intent may differ but a lie is a lie. In some circumstances, telling a lie is not harmful and may be beneficial.

    It’s unfortunate that Mr. Hartman may be devastated by an “inquisition”. I’m delighted that he was busted and exposed as a sexual predator.

    The world is a safer place when children, vulnerable adults, and communities are protected from sexual predators. When we are gone, it’s the surviving children that will protect the earth and all it’s inhabitants. It’s are sacred duty to protect and nurture all children so that in time, the world becomes a safer place for all beings…human, animals, and plants.

  12. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Correction: It’s our sacred duty…

  13. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Debra, No.

    Incidentally, I come from a family with many law enforcement officers: father, brother, nephew, cousins. One female relative presently studying law.

    Thank you.

  14. Frank Lostaunau says:

    PS I highly recommend that anyone wishing to learn more about Mennonite SNAP, Please contact their leadership.

    You may also wish to speak with SNAP, David Clohessy and/or SNAP leaders in your area.



  15. M. South says:

    Going after the customers, is like going after petty drug users, rather than the pushers engaged in wholesale distribution.

    Not that the customers or casual drug users are innocent. But there is something morally flawed about tempting others and then arresting them when they are tempted.

    There is no doubt, that if undercover officers pose as those soliciting gay sex, that there will eventually also be entrapped homosexual staff and students. It is also a characteristic of our age that prostitution has been lauded by progressive society as a valid way to earn increasingly expensive tuition – much of that the product of excessive administrative staff and excessive administrative salaries.

  16. Frank Lostaunau says:

    “Progressive society”…what’s that? Are you angry about something and not being more specific about it? Please be specific and show me some hard numbers. Have you ever used alcohol/drugs? What drugs? How often? How much?

    What is a “petty drug’ user? You seem to have a hands-off casual attitude about drug users. What drugs are being used and how are they being used? Please be very specific. Have you ever described yourself or family/friends as “petty drug users”? You seem to have a dismissive attitude but it’s not quite clear? What is “petty”? Do you deal in drugs/alcohol/needles?

    Sometimes an uninformed accepting attitude about illegal behavior seems cool but there are instances in which individuals, families, and communities have been destroyed by certain permissive attitudes and behaviors.

    Please explain what you mean by “morally flawed”. Thank you.

    How common is prostitution in the lives of those that need to pay expensive “tuition”? Show me the hard numbers? You don’t have any…do you?

    I’ve attended many presentations re: prostitution, research and participated in gathering data.

  17. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Video re: Prostitution –

  18. Frank Lostaunau says:

    Law School Lecture by leading American attorney:

    Children and female/male adults are always dehumanized when their body parts are rented out for sexual pleasure.

  19. Frank Lostaunau says:

    John…why not a sledge hammer instead of a mere stone? duh…

  20. Frank, might I get some contact information for you to interview you about this matter?

  21. Frank Lostaunau says:

    If you want to interview SNAP Menno, they might be interested.

    I’m not interested in being interviewed Mr. Briggman.

    I’m a member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. I was not raped by Catholic clergy. I’m an incest survivor.

  22. Conrad Erb says:

    Not sure if I see race as part of this, but I do see sloppy police work.

    Cops should know what bars need to be jumped in order to get a conviction, and should clear those bars before arresting anyone.