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Massage Parlor Mistrial: Defense Lawyer Recognized as Massage Client

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 30, 2011 12:44 PM

Federal prosecutors pursuing a massage parlor sex-trafficking case in Illinois met with an unexpected roadblock last week: a mistrial. The massage parlor mistrial occurred because the defense attorney, Douglas Rathe, was recognized by one of the testifying masseuses as a former client.

Can you say, awkward?

The case revolved around massage parlors owned by Alex "Daddy" Campbell, who allegedly trained his masseuses to give clients "extras" which included sexual favors. He also demanded money from the masseuses, often illegal immigrant women, threatening to deport them.

Liudmyla Ksenych of the Ukraine testified for only a few moments before she recognized Rathe as one of her former clients. She mentioned this to prosecutors after she left the witness stand. A court hearing followed this revelation, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

During the hearing, Rathe admitted that he did get massages from Ksenych. He said that no sexual favors were exchanged, and he never requested any "extras." However, he did give her a bottle of perfume and exchanged e-mails with the masseuse, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Federal prosecutors offered to withdraw Ksenych as a witness so that the trial could proceed. The judge even encouraged "Daddy" Campbell to keep Rathe as his defense attorney, citing his aggressive questioning of government witnesses. Even the prosecutors praised Rathe's legal prowess, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alas, "Daddy" Campbell could not be convinced to keep Rathe on. He said that he lost faith in his attorney after Rathe concealed that he was a client at the massage parlors, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. This prompted U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman to declare a mistrial.

Mistrials are considered invalid trials. Judges can declare mistrials if fundamental errors, prejudicial to the defendant have occurred. And, mistrials can sometimes prevent retrial under the Fifth Amendment's double jeopardy clause.

Will the massage parlor mistrial end the case? Not likely. Usually, mistrials don't invoke double jeopardy if the defendant is the one who requests or consents to the mistrial. For now, Campbell will remain in custody with a new trial scheduled to begin in January. He will be assigned an attorney to replace Douglas Rathe, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

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