A hotel-room video offered as evidence that a Mineola man patronized a prostitute shows that he offered money for sex when it is viewed within the context of his overall actions, a detective testified Tuesday.
However, Nassau County Det. David Twomey acknowledged that sex was never mentioned in the brief video, and that the telephone call allegedly made by the defendant, Nicholas Sisti, 51, to set up the hotel meeting was not recorded.
Sisti called the police telephone number listed in a suggestive Internet ad under "adult escorts," came to the hotel room and handed over $100 to the woman for a massage in a room that had no massage table, Twomey said.
Viewed "in its totality," the $100 Sisti put on the hotel dresser was an offer of money for sex, the detective testified at a nonjury trial before Judge Rhonda Fischer in First District Court in Hempstead. "I didn't see it going any other way," he said.
Sisti was among 104 men netted in a "reversal" sting by Nassau police last spring in which they targeted for the first time the "johns" who solicit sex rather than the prostitutes who offer it.
Nassau County District Kathleen Rice announced the results of the sting in June and dubbed it "Flush the Johns."
The video played in court Tuesday -- in which a TV plays loudly in the background and the words are sometimes difficult to distinguish -- showed Sisti entering the room and saying something about his "back." The female undercover officer said something to Sisti. He replied, "works for me, works for you," and puts his hands on the buttons of his shirt. At that point, detectives in the adjoining room came in to arrest him.
Det. Charles Johnson said he logged Sisti's telephone call to the undercover officer, but it was one of about 50 calls he logged that night and he could not say which conversations he overheard directly from the caller, and which were repeated to him by the undercover.
Sisti's attorney, Mark Panzavecchia of Garden City, questioned both detectives about why the telephone calls were not recorded, and both said they had never recorded the calls when they conducted stings in the past to arrest prostitutes.
Panzavecchia said in his opening statement on Monday that Sisti had sought a massage, and never solicited sex.