Prostitution charges against a former Columbia woman were dropped Friday because a police informant told prosecutors at the last minute he couldn't testify.
"The confidential informant informed us he could not attend the trial. He had a reason why he couldn't make it," said Deputy State's Attorney Dwight Thompson. "He's known about this trial for months."
Clarke F. Ahlers, a Columbia lawyer representing the woman, said his client planned to plead not guilty to prostitution at the trial.
The unnamed informant was to have been the state's key witness against Soon Hee Allender, now of Queens, N.Y. She was arrested during a Jan. 25 police raid of the Tokyo Spa located at 7060 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia.
According to a police report of the arrest, police provided the informant with cash on the day of the raid to help gather evidence about alleged prostitution at the spa. After the raid, the informant told police he had given Ms. Allender money and that they then engaged in sexual intercourse, the police report states.
Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a spokesman for the Howard County Police, said he could not disclose whether the informant was paid by police for his services in the spa investigation. He also said police could not disclose how much cash the informant was given in marked currency for use at the spa and how much of that cash was recovered in the raid.
During the 12:45 p.m. raid, police said they found seven men and three women in the spa. Officers arrested Ms. Allender and another woman, Song Ae Westphal, 41, court documents show.
One of the men interviewed by police at the spa after the raid said he had paid one of the women in the spa $160 and then had gone to shower. While showering, he told police, he was approached by Ms. Westphal, who took him to a room and gave him a massage. They then had sex, he told police.
Westphal, now living in Colorado, was given probation before judgment May 7 by Howard District Judge Lenore R. Gelfman. The judge placed the woman on six months unsupervised probation and ordered her to be tested for AIDS. She was also ordered to submit a copy of the test results to the court. That test report, contained in court records, showed she tested negative at the time.
Mr. Thompson, the prosecutor, said prostitution cases are rare in Howard County. "Maybe one every five years or so," he said.