Opening arguments are set to begin in the case of a man charged with overseeing a prostitution ring. A five-man, three-woman jury was chosen to hear the case after a morning of jury selection.

Steven Santiago Maese, 31, co-owner the Doll House escort service, was charged in 2006 with four counts of exploiting a prostitute, all third-degree felonies, and one count each of money laundering and pattern of unlawful activity, both second-degree felonies.

Then in April, 2008, he was charged in another case with two new counts — witness tampering, a third-degree felony, and stalking, a class A misdemeanor. These charges stem from incidents of alleged harassment of the other Doll House owner, Tiffany French Curtis, 34. That case is a separate matter and is not part of the current jury trial.

Curtis originally was charged with the same crimes as Maese, but she agreed to a plea bargain in February, 2008, on misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to two years probation.

Maese's defense attorney, Gil Athay, has cited that plea agreement was one of the reasons why 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy should disqualify the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office.

Athay argued that Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller has taken an active role in Maese's case and made it clear that no plea bargain would be offered to him. The office should not prosecute the case because of Miller's "political and personal vendetta" against Maese, according to Athay.

Prosecutor Chad Platt, however, told the judge it was natural that the district attorney would be involved in the cases her office is prosecuting.

The judge agreed and Skanchy issued a written ruling stating that the trial should proceed as scheduled and he would not disqualify the district attorney's office.

There is a long and bitter history between Maese and Miller.

Maese contends that Miller, who formerly was a prosecutor for Cottonwood Heights, orchestrated a 2006 raid on the Doll House as a publicity stunt to boost 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, 2008, she fired Morgan, claiming 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.


E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]