SEATTLE – A woman is suing King County, saying nearly three decades ago an undercover sheriff’s detective drove her to a massage parlor knowing she was 17 and walking into an abusive situation.
The now 44-year-old woman, who asked to be identified by her initials, M.T., filed a claim last year against King County seeking up to $20 million in damages, The Seattle Times reported.
“He drove me to the front door with the traffickers on the other side, waiting for me,” the woman told the newspaper.
The woman’s lawsuit raises troubling questions about when ethical boundaries are crossed between undercover police work and an officer’s sworn duty to protect the vulnerable.
M.T.’s suit contends the detective, as well as deputies who checked her identification at the business later the same night, all knew she was a minor. Nonetheless, they ignored mandatory reporting laws and “failed to exercise even the slightest care … to prevent the life-altering sexual and physical abuse that M.T. subsequently endured,” according to the lawsuit.
A lawyer defending King County declined an interview request. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht’s office did not respond to questions about current protocols for deputies facing similar situations.
The county tried to get the case thrown out of court, arguing the statute of limitations had expired. In May, a judge denied that argument. The case is set for trial in March.
In 1994, prosecutors used evidence compiled by undercover detective Jon Holland and other deputies to convict the massage parlor’s operators, Michael Larry Landry, and Rochelle C. King. Landry served more than two years in prison, while King got a year of community supervision.
When Landry pleaded guilty to six felony counts of promoting prostitution, he admitted he “knowingly advanced the prostitution of (M.T.),” as well as two other girls and three women, court records show.
Prosecutors initially sought to postpone turning over detectives’ notes and other records to M.T.’s lawyers. After the May ruling, the county turned over the documents, including reports showing the man who drove M.T. to the massage parlor was Holland.
Holland, 56, who is retired, did not respond to requests for comment.
For years, M.T. said she struggled with low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts.
Two years ago, after seeking trauma therapy from the King County Sexual Abuse Resource Center, M.T. said she started attending support group meetings for sex trade survivors, “and from there, my whole life changed.”
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