A Garden City man, who was among 104 people swept up in an anti-prostitution sting in Nassau County last year, was acquitted Wednesday on the sole count of patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, a misdemeanor.
Kewho Min, 43, dropped his head briefly on the defense table in First District Court in Hempstead after Judge Rhonda Fischer rendered her verdict following the nonjury trial. He turned in his seat and shook hands with and hugged his attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City, before leaving the courthouse without commenting.
He was the fourth defendant in the sting to take his case to trial, and it was the third time that a judge acquitted the defendant. The fourth man, Vadim Cruchinin of Queens Village, was convicted by another judge in February and later given a $300 fine. Seventeen defendants have pleaded guilty.
Prosecutor Robert Castillo said in his closing argument in the morning that Min sought out a prostitute through the website Backpage.com. He went to the Long Island section, clicked on a disclaimer warning he would see sexually explicit conduct and then called the telephone number listed by the supposed prostitute -- actually an undercover Nassau County police officer, Castillo said.
Min then went to a local hotel, called the number again, and was given a room number to go to, the prosecutor said. When Min entered the room, he placed $120 on the dresser, the exact amount cited in the ad and on the phone with the undercover officer, Castillo said.
Griffin argued that the ad contained slang words for sex that Min did not understand, and that there was neither an explicit agreement of sex for money during the telephone calls nor on the 35-second video of the hotel-room encounters.
District Attorney Kathleen Rice made the arrests public for the first time in June when she held a news conference to announce the results of the sting, which she dubbed Flush the Johns.
Griffin said in his closing arguments that police in the case were under pressure to meet a "quota" of 100 arrests and that Rice was seeking publicity. "This is what happens when you arrest and prosecute for publicity," Griffin told the judge.
After the verdict, a district attorney spokesman said, "Johns are arrested and prosecuted because they fuel an illegal market in which many sex workers are abused and exploited in a form of modern-day slavery . . . We will continue to prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law."