Massage parlor owner’s trial ends abruptly when masseuse recognizes lawyer as client
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporter email@example.com August 29, 2011 7:18PM
Updated: November 4, 2011 5:43PM
A federal trial of a man accused of exploiting illegal immigrant women by having them work in his massage parlors came to an unusual end last week when a masseuse testifying on the witness stand recognized the man’s defense lawyer — as a client.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman declared a mistrial.
Other women had testified they were trained at Alex “Daddy” Campbell’s massage parlors to give clients sexual favors called “extras” during the massages and to pay Campbell thousands of dollars lest he deport them.
But Ukrainian immigrant Liudmyla “Liuda” Ksenych never had a chance to say more than “I worked as a massage therapist” last Monday before court was adjourned. After she got off the witness stand, she told prosecutors she recognized Campbell’s court-appointed attorney, Douglas Rathe, as her client.
In a court hearing the following day, Rathe admitted to Gettleman that “I got too friendly with Liuda,” a transcript reads. “I mean in the sense I liked her a lot. She was a nice person. And I gave her a bottle of perfume. Stupid thing to do when you are married, but I did it. ... I met her at least four times. ... But I did send — we did exchange e-mails.”
But there was no sex, said Rathe, a private attorney.
“It was a massage — that was all it was,” Rathe told the Sun-Times Monday. “What happened was embarrassing — there was no doubt about it. [But] I did nothing illegal or nothing that was considered improper. This was a very unusual circumstance.”
In the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur told Gettleman, “There is no indication from Liuda and we have no evidence to indicate that Mr. Rathe asked for ‘extras’ through his requests of Liuda during the massage services, ... which would be an illegal act at least under local or state law. There is no specter in this case of potential prosecution” of Rathe.
Though Rathe knew going into the trial he had patronized at least one of Campbell’s parlors, MacArthur told Gettleman that Rathe would not have recognized Ksenych’s name from the witness list because she did not use her real name while working.
The prosecutors and the judge both praised the job Rathe had been doing on the case, saying he aggressively questioned the government witnesses through five days of testimony and they encouraged Campbell to keep him as his attorney. The government offered to withdraw Ksenych as a witness so the trial could proceed.
But Campbell, who had been seeking a mistrial anyway, insisted that Rathe had broken his trust by concealing from him that he had been a client at one of Campbell’s massage parlors. Gettlemen felt obliged to declare a mistrial last Tuesday and schedule a new trial with a new lawyer for January. Campbell will remain in custody.
Ksenych testified she came to the United States from the Ukraine as an exchange student five years ago at age 20 with a bachelor’s degree in law and went to work as an au pair.
A friend named Olga introduced her to Campbell and she went to work as a massage therapist at the Sea Breeze at 5816 N. Lincoln, she testified.
According to the indictment, prosecutors say Campbell and an accomplice who has already pled guilty preyed on immigrant women, locking them in apartments, confiscating their passports, driving them to work in the massage parlors, and demanding huge sums of money from them or threatening them with deportation.