Spotsylvania Deputies Receive Sex Services in Prostitution Cases

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 13, 2006

They enter the massage parlors as undercover detectives. They leave as satisfied customers.

In Spotsylvania County, as part of a campaign by the sheriff's office to root out prostitution in the massage parlor business, detectives have been receiving sexual services from "masseuses." During several visits to Moon Spa on Plank Road last month, detectives allowed women to perform sexual acts on them on four occasions and once left a $350 tip, according to court papers.

Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard D. Smith said that the practice is not new and that only unmarried detectives are assigned to such cases. Most prostitutes are careful not to say anything incriminating, so sexual contact is necessary, he said.

"If I thought we could get the conviction without that, we wouldn't allow it," Smith said. "If you want to make them, this has to be done."

But numerous police and legal experts said they were not aware of any law enforcement agency in the Washington region, or the country, that allows sexual contact in prostitution investigations. Police should not break the law to enforce it, they said.

"It's insane," said Charles J. Key Sr., a retired Baltimore police lieutenant who trains police officers and federal agents across the country. "If you allow officers to go through with the act, they've violated the law. You don't get an exception for participating in a violation of law."

Similar investigations by police in the Maryland suburbs in recent years have not ended well. In 1995, police in Howard County allowed detectives to receive sexual services from masseuses. But prosecutors later dismissed the charges against nearly all of those arrested rather than expose the investigation's tactics in open court. Five years ago, Montgomery County police sent informers into massage parlors to have sex with women there. Prosecutors told police to stop the practice, which they did, and dismissed charges against the women.

Henry "Hap" Connors Jr., chairman of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, was unaware that county investigators were having sexual contact with suspects.

Connors questioned the use of resources but expressed confidence in Smith.

"I would hope that our deputies have better ways to investigate this type of thing and have other priorities they are pursuing," he said. "We just had a kid stabbed to death. I'd hope they would spend more time pursuing those matters than pursuing pleasurable acts."

Supervisor Robert Hagan said: "It sounds like a legal question. If Fairfax is able to accomplish this without crossing that line, I would think we'd be able to do it, too. But I'm not the sheriff, and Howard's a pretty smart guy. . . . It seems extreme."

Typically, a verbal agreement to provide services and an overt act such as undressing or producing a condom will support a charge of soliciting prostitution, according to prosecutors, defense lawyers, police officials and law professors.

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