Judge Randall Skanchy ruled Monday that the trial of alleged prostitution ringleader Steven Santiago Maese will go forward as scheduled this week despite objections from the defense.
Defense attorney Gil Athay last week filed motions in the case that, if granted, would have caused the July 10-11 jury trial date to be rescheduled.
Among those was a request that the judge disqualify the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.
Athay argued in court Monday that District Attorney Lohra Miller has taken an active role in the case and made it clear that no plea bargain would be offered to Maese. However, Maese's co-defendant, Tiffany French Curtis, got a plea bargain on misdemeanor charges in February, even though she originally was charged with the same felony crimes.
Curtis served no jail time as a result of the plea bargain and was put on probation.
The district attorney's office should not prosecute Maese's case because of Miller's "political and personal vendetta" against Maese, according to Athay.
"We're entitled to have a fair prosecutor," Athay said to judge during a sometimes strongly worded exchange.
However, Skanchy in a written decision issued Monday afternoon said there is no evidence that the District Attorney's Office is prosecuting Maese and not offering a plea agreement because of any "ax to grind" involving Miller.
Skanchy wrote that there appeared to be nothing to uphold Maese's claims of bad faith on the part of the District Attorney's Office, nor are there sufficient facts to support any claims that Maese's constitutional right to due process are being violated.
"Absent any actual evidence that the district attorney's decision to retain felony charges against the defendant was malicious, rather than for some other justifiable reason, this court declines to disqualify the district attorney's office," the ruling states.
Skanchy wrote that he will "take every step necessary to ensure that the defendant is given a fair trial by an impartial jury."
Maese, 31, is the co-owner of the Doll House escort service. He contends that Miller, who formerly was a prosecutor for Cottonwood Heights, orchestrated a 2006 raid on the Doll House as a publicity stunt to help her campaign for Salt Lake County District Attorney.
Miller insisted that was not true and that she was simply doing her job by clamping down on sexually oriented businesses that violated the law.
Soon afterwards, Maese helped then-candidate Kent Morgan, a veteran prosecutor in the district attorney's office, with his unsuccessful campaign to become district attorney. Miller won the office and in March, she fired Morgan, saying that he had provided inside information to Maese about his case.
Morgan vigorously denied that claim and stated that he was certain this was simply retaliation because he ran for the same office Miller wanted. He is appealing his termination to the Salt Lake County Career Service Council in hearings set for Aug. 18-22.
Prosecutor Chad Platt said in court Monday that it was natural to have Miller interested in this case and, in an ideal world, all district attorneys would be involved in all cases handled by their offices.
Athay also said he has not been provided adequate discovery, or other information. Among other things, he was seeking information regarding any offers of immunity or lenient sentences offered to potential witnesses in the case.
In addition, Athay said he had not been provided with a full witness list, including formal notice that Maese's former business partner, Tiffany Curtis, 34, would be a witness.
Platt said there had been discussions involving Curtis, although he said he would provide Athay with written notification that Curtis will be a witness. Platt also said that a full discovery file had been provided to Athay from Maese's former defense attorney and Platt wrote a letter inviting Athay to come to the district attorney's office to review anything that might be missing.
Platt also said he had no knowledge of sentences handled by other agencies, particularly Salt Lake City, so there was nothing else for him to provide.
"There are no secrets," Platt said.Maese was charged in 2006 with four counts of exploiting a prostitute, a third-degree felony, and one count each of money laundering and pattern of unlawful activity, both second-degree felonies. He was charged in April with two new counts witness tampering, a third-degree felony, and stalking, a class A misdemeanor that allegedly involve harassing Curtis.
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