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Nassau judge dismisses 'Flush the Johns' case after DA loses evidence appeal

Kathleen Rice, who was the Nassau district attorney

Kathleen Rice, who was the Nassau district attorney during "Operation Flush the Johns," goes over the sting's results in Mineola on June 3, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau judge dismissed charges Tuesday against one of the men arrested two years ago in the "Flush the Johns" anti-prostitution sting after prosecutors said they did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial.

The Nassau County district attorney's office said it had lost an appeals court ruling on the admissibility of some evidence and did not have enough remaining evidence to proceed against Craig Lieber, 40, of West Hempstead.

"Your honor, without the evidence, we are unable to go forward," Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Brodman told Judge David Goodsell in First District Court in Hempstead.

The judge then dismissed the single misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, which sealed the court file. Another trial judge had ruled much of the evidence in the case inadmissible.

While details of the appeal are not known, other judges in other cases have criticized police for failing to record the original telephone calls supposedly soliciting sex, and for not properly documenting some steps in the sting.

Lieber's attorney, Peter Brill, declined to comment.

Lieber was one of a handful of men whose cases are still pending from the sting operation, dubbed "Flush the Johns" by Kathleen Rice in 2013 while she was Nassau district attorney.

Rice's successor, Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, had no comment on the court session, a spokesman said.

Rice said she came up with the idea of targeting the "johns" who patronize prostitutes, but the Nassau police department designed the sting, which officers called a "reversal" of their usual anti-prostitution tactics.

Most of the 104 men arrested in the sting in April and May of 2013 have pleaded guilty, but some took a plea to a reduced charge after it was allowed by prosecutors. Seven defendants refused pleas and went to trial. Six were acquitted at nonjury trials. One was convicted after trial but was allowed later to plead to a reduced charge.

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