Spokane Prostitution Bust: TV News Releases Names of Possible Customers

Last July, various police agencies in Spokane County raided several areas spas as part of an investigation into an alleged prostitution ring in the area. One of the spas was Joe Jean’s Health Spa on Division. This business had been in operation for years. At the time the police stated “we don’t think anyone was going for a legitimate message.”

Image of Spokane Prostitution Bust

(stock image unrelated to Spokane prostitution bust allegations)

On Friday, a local TV news channel posted a list of hundreds of men whose credit cards had been used at the spa. The list was apparently obtained from a public records request. The list had the name from the credit card, the date of the transaction, and the amount authorized.

Posting the list online was controversial, and some other local media outlets decided against naming names. Some people commenting on the site pointed out that the credit cards may have been stolen. Others said that it was improper to post the list because the nature of the service is unknown. In terms of the law, it does appear the TV station was acting within their rights under the first amendment. The station used the word “john” in the url. See: http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/khq/johnslist.pdf. That file name may have been intended for internal use rather than a public characterization of the list of names.

Will the men be charged with prostitution? It appears that that would be unlikely. The statute of limitations is one year, and many of those transactions are from quite a while ago. It would seem a case could only be made with direct testimony from the person rendering the service. No one has been charged with prostitution as a result of the raids.

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Photo of Steve Graham Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer who works in eastern Washington, including Spokane, Grant, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, and Okanogan, and Whitman counties. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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