Attorneys for a Northfield man charged with promoting prostitution say a quick trial will help them move the case on to the state Appellate Court.
Kyle White, who’s representing Zuqiu Chen, 45, said Wednesday that his client isn’t guilty, but expects Chen will likely be convicted. His goal is to get to the state Court of Appeals where he can argue that the investigator violated state law by disrobing and engaging in a sex act with a massage therapist. That behavior, which White called “shocking,” may violate a 1995 model policy regarding professional conduct for peace officers mandated by the state Legislature.
White says the investigator, Mike Pritzlaff, an agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, violated the policy which forbids peace officers from engaging in sexual contact or conduct while performing their duties. The policy defines lewd behavior as “including but not limited to, showering or receiving a massage in the nude, exposing themselves, or making physical contact with the nude or partially nude body of any person, except as pursuant to a written policy of the agency.”
While the criminal complaint filed in February doesn’t mention Pritzlaff’s alleged state of undress, a defense motion to dismiss, filed April 27, does.
According to the motion, Pritzlaff in his supplemental report on the case, said he established a relationship with one of the female massage therapists and at least once disrobed on his own initiative. The therapist, Jingwei Jin, known by her American name, Linda, reportedly touched the agent’s genitals, rubbed hers on the agent and performed a sex act on Pritzlaff. The agent also allegedly touched Linda during these encounters.
Rice County District Court Judge Christine Long denied the motion to dismiss, finding that Chen was seen driving Linda and another massage therapist known as Sophia, to the massage parlor, Mystic Massage on Hwy. 3 in Northfield near Babcock Park, and that money used by law enforcement to pay for the massages was found in his wallet.
“The conduct was not sufficiently outrageous to warrant barring prosecution,” Long wrote in an Aug. 2 order. “The agent’s actions were necessary for the collection of evidence and he stopped the contact as soon as he had enough to support the charge.”
White and his co-counsel Thomas Hagler believe the case is about money. They question why agents from the BCA’s Financial Crimes Division were involved and point to two companion civil cases which involve the forfeiture of Chen’s vehicle and $14,000 in cash.
They’re also concerned that the real culprit in the case, a man they say claimed to be a janitor for Mystic Massage, but is actually the owner, wasn’t charged. And they’re dubious about why it took until May to charge Linda. A warrant for her arrest for agreeing to be hired as a prostitute, a gross misdemeanor, and prostitution, a misdemeanor, was issued May 2. She hasn’t yet been taken into custody.
Chen, who has been in jail since being charged in February, appeared in court Wednesday during a plea hearing that ended with attorneys for both sides agreeing to stipulate which facts the case will be tried on. That, County Attorney John Fossum said, will allow the case to proceed more quickly.
Judge Long asked the attorneys to return sometime next month with a proposal detailing which facts the case will be based on.
If convicted, Chen would be be sentenced to eight years under state sentencing guidelines, Fossum said. But if the court doesn’t consider that the crime occurred in a park zone, Chen could receive a sentence of four years.