The prosecution rested its case Tuesday against the third man to go to trial after being swept up in the "Flush the Johns" anti-prostitution sting in Nassau County last year that resulted in 104 arrests.
But the defendant, Vadim Cruchinin, 40, of Queens Village, was not in his chair at the time. He chose not to return for the afternoon court session after a news photographer took his picture during the lunch break, his attorney, Stuart Kanoff, told Judge Sharon Gianelli in First District Court in Hempstead.
Undercover detectives testified in the afternoon that Cruchinin was arrested after he paid a female undercover officer $70 in a Westbury hotel room for sex.
Cruchinin went on an Internet site used to advertise sex for sale, selected an ad -- posted by an undercover officer -- and called the number on that ad, said the detectives, who testified anonymously.
He then went to the motel where detectives had rented adjoining rooms -- one for meeting with johns and the other for backup teams and recording equipment, they said. A video of the meeting between Cruchinin and the undercover was admitted into evidence Tuesday.
Meanwhile, two more defendants in the sting pleaded guilty Tuesday, bringing the total number of convictions to 13. The two cases that have gone to trial -- both nonjury -- ended in acquittals.
The court session began with the resumption of a disagreement between the judge and Assistant District Attorney Victoria Mauri over the propriety of how a transcript was made and used during the trial.
Mauri insisted Tuesday that the judge had "questioned my ethics" during Monday's court session. Gianelli said she had not. "This is not a personal aspersion to you," the judge said.
As they did the day before, the prosecutor and judge talked over each other at times, their voices rising. The judge said she questioned the ethics of the prosecutors working with an undercover detective to prepare a transcript of the encounter between the defendant and the detective, and then using the transcript -- which is not in evidence -- to jog the detective's memory when she testified.
Mauri said it was "generally accepted practice" to work jointly with police on a transcript, and that prior appellate court decisions supported her position. "I am well aware of what the law is," the judge replied.