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'Flush The Johns' case delayed after new recording surfaces

A trial for one of the men arrested in the "Flush-the-Johns" anti-prostitution sting last year was postponed Tuesday after a Nassau prosecutor disclosed that a second audiovisual recording of the arrest had surfaced in the case.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Castillo asked that the case be adjourned and Judge Rhonda Fischer of First District Court in Hempstead set a new trial date of April 28 for the man, Kewho Min, 43, of Garden City.

Defense attorney Brian Griffin of Garden City objected to the adjournment and said he was ready to proceed to trial, and had been led to believe that prosecutors were also ready.

"This is the third time I've stood here and said 'ready for trial,' and it's the third time the people have asked for an adjournment," Griffin said.

Castillo gave no reason in open court for seeking the adjournment. DA spokesman Shams Tarek later said that prosecutors needed the adjournment because of added evidence and witnesses.

Griffin said after a conference at the bench that during the lunch break he had viewed -- for the first time -- the second recording of the night of May 9 when Min allegedly went to a local hotel and met an undercover police officer. The attorney said it was an exact copy of the one turned over by prosecutors as part of pretrial discovery.

He said prosecutors told him police on the sting made two simultaneous recordings of events leading up to the arrest from the same hidden camera in the undercover's hotel room.

Tarek said later his office did not know about the "backup" recording until police alerted them on March 14. He said prosecutors don't legally have to turn it over to the defense, but they did, inviting Griffin to view it March 19.

Tarek did not address whether backup recordings exist for other "Flush the Johns" cases.

Min was one of 104 men arrested between April and May of last year and charged with patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

Police officers and detectives testified at three prior trials of defendants in the sting that they set up what they called "a reversal," meaning, for the first time in Nassau, the investigation targeted the "johns" who solicit prostitutes rather than the prostitutes themselves.

There was no mention during those trials of a second recording being made.

Attorney William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, who represents three of the men awaiting trial, said the surprise appearance of the second recording was "yet another example of the sloppy manner in which the police department has conducted this investigation."

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice publicized the arrests in June and dubbed the sting operation "Flush the Johns."

Fifteen defendants have pleaded guilty. Two have gone to a nonjury trial and been acquitted. One was convicted in a nonjury trial. One case was dismissed with consent of prosecutors, and one was dismissed by a judge in the interests of justice.

The remaining cases are pending.

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