Pioneer Press – 2011-09-30
Charges against a woman accused of offering sexual services at a Woodbury massage parlor have been dropped, but the prosecutor says it has nothing to do with her accusations of police misconduct.
Chulalak Ratsbouth, 29, of Plymouth was charged in June with one count of gross misdemeanor prostitution.
In late August, her attorney petitioned the court to dismiss the charges, saying police had falsified information on a search warrant and had violated her due process rights by staying for an hourlong erotic massage.
On Thursday, Woodbury prosecutor Wendy Murphy asked the court to dismiss the charges.
The “Woodbury (Police Department) still has some ongoing investigations, and we didn’t want to interfere with those by proceeding in this case,” Murphy said Friday. “It did not have anything to do with (the defense’s) allegations.”
Murphy would not elaborate on the ongoing police investigation, and the police commander in charge was unavailable for comment Friday.
Ratsbouth was charged after an undercover operation to determine whether acts of prostitution occurred at Oriental Touch Massage, in the 7000 block of Hudson Road. According to a search warrant affidavit, Woodbury police received a tip from “a concerned citizen” about alleged activity.
On April 14 and 21, undercover officers went to the massage parlor posing as customers, each requesting a session with “Victoria.” The first officer, a Woodbury police investigator, requested sexual contact for money, but Victoria declined. The second officer, who was unidentified in court documents, alleged that Victoria touched his genitals and touched him with her breasts.
Victoria turned out to be Ratsbouth, an employee of the massage business.
Ratsbouth’s defense attorney, Ryan Garry, said he had concerns about the anonymous tip and suggested in court documents that the information was inaccurate but used by police anyway.
Garry also said the unidentified officer stayed too long during his visit to the massage parlor, receiving sexual contact beyond the scope of the investigation.
“The court of appeals has ruled that police officers cannot do this and that this conduct is so offensive that it’s a violation of my client’s due process rights,” Garry said.
The officer could have gotten what he needed to charge Ratsbouth in a few minutes, but he made the decision to stay longer, Garry said in his motion papers filed in Washington County District Court.
Police Chief Lee Vague has said he stands by his department’s investigation.
Another court case related to the massage parlor also has been dismissed.
The Washington County attorney’s office last week dropped two felony charges against Houa Lor, 21, of St. Paul, who was accused of groping an Oriental Touch Massage employee.
Lor pleaded not guilty to both counts in July.
The alleged groping occurred in April, about the same time undercover officers were building their prostitution case. According to a criminal complaint, Lor went to the massage parlor with friends and was under the impression that sexual services were offered.
A massage therapist reported that Lor forcibly kissed and touched her. He was charged with criminal sexual conduct.
The charges were dismissed because prosecutors and investigators were unable to locate the alleged victim, whose testimony was central to the case, said Fred Fink, who heads the criminal division at the attorney’s office. If she resurfaces and is willing to cooperate, the charges could be refiled, Fink said.
Elizabeth Mohr can be reached at 651-228-5162.