A judge has tossed the case against a Manhasset restaurateur charged with patronizing a prostitute, the fifth such dismissal in the prosecution of 104 men arrested earlier this year in a Nassau sting operation dubbed "Flush the Johns."
Judge Susan Kluewer, sitting in First District Court in Hempstead, on Friday tossed the case after Nassau prosecutors said they didn't have sufficient evidence to go to trial.
"This arrest had a terrible effect on my client's marriage," said the restaurateur's attorney, Sal Marinello of Garden City.
The restaurateur, whose wife has filed for divorce, plans to sue Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and her office for malicious prosecution and/or civil rights violations, Marinello said.
So far, 11 cases have been resolved. Six of the defendants pleaded guilty said Shams Tarek, Rice's chief spokesman said.
Several defense attorneys representing at least half a dozen other men said they are currently challenging their clients' arrests and prosecution.
Rice has been roundly criticized, particularly by the Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association, for releasing the names and photographs of the 104 men, including doctors, lawyers and engineers.
Undercover female detectives posed as prostitutes for the sting, which ran from April to May.
In the restaurateur's case, a friend picked him up on May 15 and they were headed to his birthday celebration, according to Marinello. The restaurateur's friend said he had to first make a stop at a motel to meet someone.
"My client walked into the room. He used the bathroom," Marinello said. "As soon as he came out of the bathroom, the undercover police officers jumped out of the door and they arrested him." Police arrested both men and charged each with third-degree patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor.
In court papers, Officer Kristin Patsalos, posing as the prostitute, said the restaurateur agreed to pay her $250 for an hour of sex. However, Marinello said his client did not call the undercover officer, and did not pay or offer to pay for sex. And, Marinello said, police had no evidence to back up the allegation.
Marinello said when he first brought the matter to the attention of prosecutor Robert Castillo, who was handling the case, Castillo initially refused to drop the charge. Then, Marinello said he had to force Castillo to drop the charge by filing a motion and asking a judge to dismiss it and he eventually agreed.
"While there was probable cause to arrest both defendants in this unique dual-defendant case, the district attorney's office conducted its own investigation and moved to dismiss the charges against one of the defendants after finding a lack of sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," said Tarek.