Howard County plans to drop charges against 9 women in massage parlor case Changes in law needed, says state's attorney

April 04, 1996|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

It was controversial from the start -- police officers paying masseuses to perform illegal sex acts.

Now it has become embarrassing as the Howard County state's attorney said yesterday she would drop charges against nine women of Korean descent accused of committing the sex acts.

State's Attorney Marna McLendon said it was difficult to prosecute the sex cases under Howard County's current massage-parlor licensing law -- though the 1994 law originally was intended to do just that.

"I'm hoping we will never be in the same position again and that there will be changes in the law," Ms. McLendon said.

Police have little to show for a seven-month-long, $4,260 investigation of massage parlors that ended with the highly publicized arrests of parlor employees.

Charges will have been dismissed in 11 of the 13 cases. Only two of the 13 women charged in last year's investigation were successfully prosecuted. The two women agreed to surrender their licenses for a year in exchange for having their cases placed on the District Court's inactive docket.

Howard County police "have absolutely nothing to show for it," said Michael P. May, an attorney who represented two of the women whose cases were dismissed in Howard Circuit Court last week. "It's an awful waste of taxpayer money for absolutely nothing."

Police Chief James N. Robey would not comment on yesterday's decision by prosecutors.

The investigation began with residents' complaints that massage parlors in eastern Howard County were dens of prostitution.

Police responded with an investigation that involved dozens of visits to the parlors by officers who paid about $100 per massage -- a total cost of $4,260.

The probe ended in October, with the 13 women charged with such violations as exposing their "erogenous areas," allowing customers to expose themselves and massaging officers' private areas.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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