A federal sex-trafficking case was declared a mistrial last week when a masseuse testifying against an allegedly exploitative massage parlor recognized the defense attorney as a former client.
Liudmyla “Liuda” Ksenych, a Ukranian immigrant, worked at a massage parlor owned by Alex “Daddy” Campbell, where other women testified they were trained to give clients sexual favors and pay Campbell thousands of dollars to avoid deportation, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. When she left the witness stand last Monday, she told prosecutors that she recognized Campbell’s attorney, Douglas Rathe, as a former client.
Rathe, a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney, told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman that he had visited Ksenych four times for massages and given her a bottle of perfume as a gift, but that “nothing inappropriate” occurred during those visits, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“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.”
According to the indictment, Campbell is accused of coercing immigrant women into jobs at his massage parlors, confiscating their passports, trapping them in apartments and driving them to and from work and extorting thousands of dollars from them with the threat of deportation, the Sun-Times reports. An accomplice has already pled guilty to these crimes.
Neither the prosecutors nor the judge seemed convinced that Rathe's history with Ksenych interfered with his ability to do his job, according to the Sun-Times, and the government offered to withdraw Ksenych as a witness so the trial could continue.
But Campbell, who had already filed a motion for a mistrial on a separate issue, tried again, insisting he could not trust Rathe, his court-appointed attorney, and would need to be assigned a new defense lawyer, according the Tribune. The trial has been rescheduled for January.