Sisters to stand trial on prostitution charges

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Sisters to stand trial on prostitution charges By Gina Tenorio — Staff Writer 7/30/03 Sisters April and Irene Cummings were ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges that they engaged in acts of prostitution at their now-defunct Santa Maria massage parlor. At the end of a preliminary hearing, Judge Rick Brown ruled that there is sufficient evidence to require a trial in the case, which has drawn unusual attention — and a tight-lipped response to questions about it — from the City of Santa Maria’s legal staff. April Cummings, 46, and Irene Cummings, 45, are scheduled to return to court Aug. 20 for arraignment on charges of soliciting prostitution and conspiracy to commit a crime. Irene also has been charged with pandering. “I’ve lost my home and I’m about to lose another job because I have to keep coming back to court,” Irene Cummings told the judge after the ruling. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I just feel like I don’t know what’s going on.” Irene Cummings’ declaration came after prosecuting and defense attorney spent almost three hours questioning Santa Maria Police detectives about evidence gathered in August 2002 at the Gentle Hands For Health, a massage parlor at 500 S. Broadway that was owned and operated by the sisters. The women were arrested on Aug. 28 after a two-day undercover investigation into the business, during which Santa Maria Police Sgt. Greg Carroll wore a wire tap, posed as a customer and asked the women for an “erotic” massage. According to Carroll’s testimony, the woman discussed “sexually releasing” him. Michael Scott, attorney for April Cummings, did not directly address whether any sexual activity had taken place at the parlor. He argued that regardless of what occurred, no crime was committed because the sisters did not charge the undercover officer for any extra services. “Where is the act of prostitution?” Scott said. “When he (Carroll) asked about a tip, he was told it was entirely up to him.” However, it was the tipping that led Brown to his decision to order a trial. Citing a prior case in which a judge ruled tips could be counted as part of the profits, Brown said tipping for any extra was a benefit to the business and therefore profit. Both women, visibly upset, spoke out after the ruling, demanding the judge explain what was happening. The small outburst led to a five-minute break while attorneys for the women tried to calm their fears and explain what came next. The sisters contend that they are being prosecuted because a number of city, police and judicial officials had been clients of their former business. They have always maintained their innocence and insist nothing illegal ever took place at the business. Adding an air of mystery to the case has been the presence of officials from City Attorney Art Montandon’s office during the hearing. Montandon would not comment on the city’s interest in the case, except to say it involved his office and that they would continue to monitor the case as it goes to trial. Staff writer Gina Tenorio can be reached by e-mail at :nav Source:

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