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Sexual Consent in Seattle Must Involve Element of 'Leisure,' Claims Top Cop

What Korean sex workers "were doing could not be called consensual because they were being paid," Val Richey tells The Seattle Times.

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office/FacebookKing County Prosecuting Attorney's Office/FacebookIn Seattle, sex must be a "leisure activity" for both parties or it's nonconsensual, according to one area prosecutor. In a splashy Seattle Times feature in which local law enforcement play hero protagonists, Val Richey—a senior deputy prosecuting attorney for King County, Washington, and one of the driving forces behind the area's anti-prostitution efforts—lays out his tortuous framework for treating all sex workers as victims of rape and, in this case, human trafficking.

"What you have is someone paying this person essentially to turn a 'no' into a 'yes,'" Richey told the paper. "Because as several of the buyers...observed, these women, as a leisure activity, are not looking to have sex with 10 guys in a day. They're doing it for the money."

By that logic, anyone who wouldn't perform their job without remuneration is a victim of labor trafficking!

But Richey is "adamant," as the Times tells it, that what Korean sex workers in the area "were doing could not be called consensual because they were being paid."

Alas, this is one of the folks who decide what offenses the county decides to prosecute and how those cases proceed. Richey was integral to the 2016 shutdown of a Seattle sex work forum called The Review Board, and along with it several "brothels" that primarily employed Korean women.

The Review Board case started out as an investigation into human trafficking. Finding no evidence of such, it then turned into a witchhunt against people who posted online prostitution reviews. At this point, more than two dozen men have been charged with promoting prostitution—a felony offense generally reserved for pimps, madams, and others intimately involved with the trade—for writing about alleged sexual escapades on a members-only website.

I've been following this story for over a year now, I've combed through copious court documents related to the case, and I've talked to many of the principal people involved. (See my feature from last fall for an expansive look at the case.) I can say confidently that the Seattle Times' telling of the story gets at least as much wrong as it gets right.

To her credit, writer Lynn Thompson does include perspectives from local sex workers, and she doesn't overdramatize the basic facts of the case. She accurately describes The Review Board as a place where sex workers advertised and their customers—or "hobbyists," as they called themselves—posted reviews and interacted with each other. Much of the initial coverage of the case erroneously identified it as a forum where men knowingly shopped for and evaluated "sex trafficking victims." But numerous independent Seattle sex workers considered it a valuable resource both for marketing and for personal safety.

The article also accurately portrays the Korean sex workers involved as women who flew into town independently, worked out of upscale apartments where they were not confined, and were well-paid. Most would stay in town for a few weeks, working as a sort of temp contractor for one of the area's "K Girl" agencies or renting a room from fellow Korean sex workers who had put down roots in the area, before heading to similar setups in other cities or back to where they regularly resided.

These women had mostly come to the U.S. on tourist or student visas, police say; they were not smuggled in illegally or brought here against their will. Officers from the King County Sheriff's Office and the Bellevue Police Department made months' worth of undercover visits to them before raiding the K-Girl "brothels" in January. If these were really "true victims of human trafficking" (as King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg described them at a press conference) who were being raped multiple times per day (as Richey asserts), how do police justify just letting it happen for months and months as they continued to build a case against the men who posted to The Review Board?

Of the 12 women police discovered during the raid, none elected to testify against any of the defendants or stay in contact with police. "Our approach was to allow the women who we recovered from these places to go, without requiring their testimony or requiring them to stay here," Richey told me last summer. "Many of them I think just wanted to leave."

But King County was determined to make a case, victims or no victims. Three people were arrested on human trafficking charges—charges later reduced to permitting and promoting prostitution. The worst that could be pinned on one of these so-called "human traffickers" was that "occasionally another woman would come and work" from her apartment, Richey told me. (The alleged trafficker in question was a Korean immigrant and sex worker herself.) As for the other two "traffickers," ultimately "the evidence was more that [they were] providing a place" and "promoting the prostitution of numerous foreign nationals."

The Times article reports that one these defendants, Donald Mueller, told the cops the women he employed were typically forced to work in prostitution to pay off debts they or their family owed to corrupt Korean money lenders. In fact, police claim Mueller told them that he likes to employ young Korean women because he found that many had racked up high amounts of credit-card debt. Mueller may not come across as sympathetic either way, but there's a big difference between selling sexual services to pay off credit-card bills and selling sexual services because a nefarious loan shark is threatening to kill you otherwise. (It should also be noted that almost all of the more damning statements attributed to defendants are presented as paraphrased snippets of conversation, and are not backed up by any textual or recorded evidence.)

Similarly, Thompson's article mischaracterizes The Review Board owner Sigurd Zitars as limiting ads from Asian women because Zitars was "alert to the possibility that the women were trafficking victims" and might thereby attract police attention.

Zitars did tell an undercover detective that he limited ads from Asian sex workers, according to the charging documents. But he explicitly stated that this was because cops think these women are trafficking victims, even though "that isn't the case." In the same conversation, Zitars allegedly lamented that all the money Barack Obama and "the feds" were funneling toward fighting human trafficking was actually being used to target consenting activity between adults.

Zitars fatally shot himself last summer, after having his name slandered across national media as a calculating sexual slaver who helped smuggle Korean women around the country.

The above are just a few of the details the Times gets wrong—small details, sure, but taken together they significantly shape the story in a certain direction and negate any neutrality the writer may have been striving toward.

Bottom line: King County law enforcement ruined dozens of people's lives with this prosecution and put countless women at risk; a lot of Seattle sex workers complain that clients are now less willing to cooperate with screening measures, leaving those who can't afford to be picky to take their chances. And all with nothing to show for it in terms of saving victims of sexual exploitation, stopping abusive predators, or discovering deeper criminal networks. The cops are the villains of this story, not the heroes.

Photo Credit: King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office/Facebook

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  • Domestic Dissident||

    { Thinks about making a dumb joke about sandwiches, thinks better of it and runs away in the other direction as fast as possible }

  • WakaWaka||

    Jokes are worse than Hitler

  • Hail Rataxes||

    Aw, you didn't have any takers so you had to talk to yourself again.

    Hint: the other yokels are gone now. I'm sure they'd love to talk about this though.

  • Jerryskids||

    By that logic, anyone who wouldn't perform her job without remuneration is a victim of labor trafficking!

    Something tells me Val Richey would be happy to perform the persecutor's job for free. His salary's just icing on the cake.

  • Jerryskids||

    And we won't even bring up the psychology involved in the fantasy about hot Asian sex slaves.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Something tells me his browser history is ... interesting.

  • Number 2||

    "By that logic, anyone who wouldn't perform their job without remuneration is a victim of labor trafficking!"

    I'm curious Elizabeth...you were paid for this article, weren't you?

  • Zeb||

    By that logic, anyone who wouldn't perform their job without remuneration is a victim of labor trafficking!

    Well, there are people in the world who will refer to voluntary employment situations as "wage slavery" with a straight face.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    What's weird is that those same people tend to prefer "solutions" that involve actual slavery.

  • Mark22||

    It's a cure of the "the operation was a complete success and the patient is dead" variety.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    That was a common thought during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Craftsmen owned their tools, their means of production, whereas factory workers owned nothing and could be fired at a moment's notice. Even slave owners said slavery was more honest a job than factory work. I presume that's where Marx got a lot of his thoughts.

  • LarryA||

    So in this case, the women are the craftsmen, not the factory workers. They do "own" their own "tools."

  • Robert||

    That's what I inferred: This lawyer's a Marxist. Hard for him to be an anarchist w that job, so Marx it is.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    So taxi drivers are all hijacked many times daily?

    Retail stores are robbed many many times daily?

    And prosecutors are coerced by ... themselves?

    How about cops who bust prostitutes? More coercion, I see.

    And I never would have thunk that Picasso, Van Gogh, da Vincii, and all the others were slaves. Imagine that!

    I have been so naive.

  • Cloudbuster||

    How about cops who bust prostitutes? More coercion, I see.

    They'd do that for free, just for the power boner. So maybe no coercion there.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    They get paid for it. Following the logic, that's all it takes to be coercion. I bet some of those sex workers enjoyed parts of their job too.

  • Robert||

    The same implication is what bothers me about the phrase "volunteer work", i.e. that only unpaid work is voluntary.

  • gah87||

    In fact, one cannot volunteer for unpaid work, either.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04.....ntern.html

  • AlmightyJB||

    There is no form of life lower than a vice cop.

  • cgr2727||

    There is no form of life lower than a vice cop.

    FTFY

  • Eric||

    "There is no form of life lower than a vice cop."

    I don't know. Driving a Ferrari and banging a new hot chick every week sounds pretty ok to me.

  • Zeb||

    I suspect the painters, especially Van Gogh would have painted with or without being paid for it.

    And I'm sure you could get some cops to volunteer for the prostitution stings without (cash) compensation.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Doesn't matter. I'm sure the prostitutes at least occasionally enjoy some parts of their work, but that's irrelevant when any money is involved, according to this expert.

  • Dillinger||

    Val Richey, jealous of Korean sex workers.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Officers from the King County Sheriff's Office and the Bellevue Police Department made months' worth of undercover visits to them before raiding the K-Girl "brothels" in January. If these were really "true victims of human trafficking" (as King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg described them at a press conference) who were being raped multiple times per day (as Richey asserts), how do police justify just letting it happen for months and months as they continued to build a case against the men who posted to The Review Board?

    Oh, I think we all know the answer to that question. Getting to "sample the goods" is just one of the perks that comes with being a vice cop.

    The cops are the villains of this story, not the heroes.

    If the Richey's assertion that paying for sex = rape is true, then it sounds like those undercover cops are serial rapists.

  • ||

    And the next logical conclusion from here (undercover cops are serial rapists) is that the DA is guilty by association and enablement. Or maybe this makes him a pimp.

  • Zeb||

    So, are they going to start investigating the dating scene as well to make sure no one is putting out for any reason besides leisure and pleasure?

    This is really ridiculous. And I can't imagine that these attempts to conflate all sex work with "trafficking" or sex slavery are doing anything to help actual victims of forced prostitution. It seems to me that having consensual prostitution out in the open and legal would be a good move if you are truly concerned about helping people who are coerced into it.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    "Isn't it true, Mr. Smith, that you PAID for that dinner and the subsequent movie? That you even bought the popcorn and sodas and Snow Caps and nachos? And you gave her a free bowl of Cheerios in the morning? You know what that adds up to, don't you, Mister?!"

  • Number 7||

    "And you gave her a free bowl of Cheerios in the morning"

    I don't know if that's euphemism or not but funny as hell either way.

  • Up To The Old Shenanigans||

    Yeah, one well-fed and hopefully happy partner and the start or continuation of a beautiful relationship if both want that. Thanks for the laugh!

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "What you have is someone paying this person essentially to turn a 'no' into a 'yes,'"

    It's called business.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    It's so common, there is even a special term for it: NEGOTIATION.

    It happens in any business relationship, too. When I was offered my current position, there was a pay floor below which I would not accept the job offer. I negotiated with the employer.

    What's funny is I thought these neo-Puritans were some of the same people who are pushing for a $15 minimum wage, negative consequences for entry-level workers be damned.

    According to the $15 per hour folks, no one should accept work for the current minimum wage. So, essentially, the offer of a higher wage of $15 per hour is paying the job applicant to turn a 'no' into a 'yes.' FOR SHAME, YOU RUTHLESS TRAFFICERS!

    And let's not even get started on all the women who routinely turn down date offers from homeless guys but would jump at the chance to date a medical doctor, even if the homeless dude is ostensibly more physically attractive once he's had a shower and some change of clothes. Those women are victims of prostitution! They must be saved from themselves, according to these idiots.

  • BearOdinson||

    What do I have to do, to get you into this lovely Cadillac Korean woman today?

  • Tom Bombadil||

    A-B-C
    Always
    Be
    Copulating

  • Uncle Jay||

    I knew an attorney once that lost his case.
    His client refused to pay.
    The lawyer said he would garnish his wages if necessary.
    Then the client told the lawyer to, "Go fuck himself."
    The lawyer thought for a moment and considered his client's words as good legal advice and didn't garnish his client's wages.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Can I have your Lawn mower? No. How about for $50? /calls police. /police arrive and shoots callers dog.

  • Crusty Juggler - Hero||

    But Richey is "adamant," as the Times tells it, that what Korean sex workers in the area "were doing could not be called consensual because they were being paid."

    What's Richey doing in that photo, trying to buy a clue?

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    (Voice in phone): "...and then, I take off your socks..."
    (Richey): "...mmmm...yeah baby"

  • Crusty Juggler - Hero||

    Val Richey? More like Royale Snitchy.

  • some guy||

    Do what you love and you'll never work slave a day in your life.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    Officers from the King County Sheriff's Office and the Bellevue Police Department made months' worth of undercover visits to them before raiding the K-Girl "brothels" in January.

    Sounds to me like the victims in this case would have been the taxpayers of those jurisdictions, who have to work to fork over taxes to pay for cops getting laid.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The only positive that I got from this story-- and King County's approach is they're not arresting prostitutes any more. So there's that small nugget of good will.

  • damikesc||

    Heaven forbid a couple is trying to get pregnant and doesn't have a real burning desire to fuck...

    Remember when the Progs demanded the government stay out of their bedrooms?

  • gah87||

    Or a woman's right to control her own body? Where's Billie Jean King when you need her....

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    In Seattle, sex must be a "leisure activity" for both parties or it's nonconsensual, according to one area prosecutor.


    That idea is not inconsistent with Marxian economic theory which suggests workers are exploited by those with money because the worker is compelled to work, as the means to support him or herself have been taken by Capitalists, i.e. the means of production. So, applying Marxianisn to prostitution, clearly a prostitute is being "enslaved" by a client because the client is taking over her means of production. That tells me the prosecutor is a Marxian. Which means, he's an idiot.

  • Agnes||

    My old man told me sooner or later, everyone realizes they're a whore for the money. Absolute best advice to live by.

    Also, I love how most PC liberals scream that they don't want old white men telling them what to do with their body...

    At this rate, we women are just a bunch of cross eyed, retarded hens stumbling along until one side or the other tells us how we are not in control of our bodies and don't have the ability to make sense of one thing or another when it comes to anything sex related.

  • Crusty Juggler - Hero||

    Listen, women have a right to choose whatever they can do with their bodies as long as their betters approve of the behavior.

  • Up To The Old Shenanigans||

    I agree with what your old man said, Agnes. The only thing that differs among us adults is how we decide to prostitute ourselves.

  • BearOdinson||

    We already figured out what you are. Now we are just haggling over the price!

  • Uncle Jay||

    Sexual Consent in Seattle Must Involve Element of 'Leisure,' Claims Top Cop
    What Korean sex workers "were doing could not be called consensual because they were being paid," Val Richey tells The Seattle Times.

    Unbelievable stupidity.
    What is more frightening is Mr. Richey carries a gun and has the authority to use it on the people of Seattle.

  • Up To The Old Shenanigans||

    I wish he would have used it to go after the guy who broke into my friend's car when I was spending my "leisure" time in downtown Seattle. Oh, wait...the cop was probably up to his face in muff to go after any real crime.

  • Uncle Jay||

    "Oh, wait...the cop was probably up to his face in muff to go after any real crime.

    Well, at least the cop knew his priorities.

  • Rich||

    But Richey is "adamant," as the Times tells it, that what Korean sex workers in the area "were doing could not be called consensual because they were being paid."

    "Richey prosecute you long time."

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Come on everyone; the human trafficking narrative is just there and is begging for substantiation. It just HAS to be true on some level! I mean the intentions are SO GOOD and someone has to be saved!

    And heterosexual males are evil by nature anyway.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    "Loveless copulation going on...and it must stop!!!"

  • Henry Baker||

    Control-freak maggots like Richey don't respond to reason. They should simply be snatched in the dark of night and caned to death.

  • swampwiz||

    I think the anti-prostitution forces are trying to implement a sort-of bachelor tax - i.e., restrict the ability for men to *rent* their access to sex, and thus make them *buy* that access to sex via marriage.

  • Mark22||

    So if I buy something in a store, it's robbery? Because I use my money to turn a no into a yes? And I'm really a slave to my employer because he turns my no into a yes with a salary?

    And most importantly, I must be raping the IRS by giving them money, right?

  • Tionico||

    King County.. whaddyaspeck.

    Home of some of the most perverted and corrupt public officials in the nation.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Fatally shot himself"

    Well, you know, it's so much easier when they do it themselves... Plus it saves taxpayers the cost of valuable ammunition!

    See? There IS a libertarian argument for this.

  • Bra Ket||

    "By that logic, anyone who wouldn't perform their job without remuneration is a victim of labor trafficking!"

    Sounds like a joke but actually dead serious how they think. Hence corporations, who "exploit" people are worse than govts that use direct force on people. Because at least the govt has oversight from the voters unlike corporations who are left to their own devices, hence run their slave empires purely for greed.

  • Bra Ket||

    Similarly, Thompson's article mischaracterizes The Review Board owner Sigurd Zitars as limiting ads from Asian women because Zitars was "alert to the possibility that the women were trafficking victims" and might thereby attract police attention.

    Zitars did tell an undercover detective that he limited ads from Asian sex workers, according to the charging documents. But he explicitly stated that this was because cops think these women are trafficking victims, even though "that isn't the case." In the same conversation, Zitars allegedly lamented that all the money Barack Obama and "the feds" were funneling toward fighting human trafficking was actually being used to target consenting activity between adults.

    This kind of twisting of people's words really annoys me. Another example of why you should never talk to the cops. His words used to indict him with the exact opposite meaning that they actually convey. Ironic it was the journalist that did this, while the cop got the accurate words. So perhaps it's a even better example of how the media sucks. They should be forced to do a correction.

  • tommhan||

    This will not stop prostitution any better than the war against drugs stopped drugs. Think of all the wasted money on those two failures and it continues.

  • Invictus||

    I think it's hard for folks in King Country to understand Val who does a wonderful job saying all the right things in the right tone to the camera.

    Here's the Val Richie I know.

    We're all sitting in the King County Courtroon that first Thursday (Thursday is sex offender day in King County and it's a full house).

    Next to me is member who was arrested with his wife. He has his head down in shame as his wife crys over their shared ruined lives.

    Val comes walking down the hallway with a snap in his step like a kid in a candy store, takes a look at the broken husband, crying shattered wife and the flashes the biggest grin you can imagine as he takes in his greatest success story.

    I couldn't be sure if all that joy was a reflection of the shattered husband or the broken wife. I only knew in that moment that Val was the greatest humanitarian since Mother Theresa.

  • Sashay||

    I think it's hard for folks in King Country to understand Val because he does such an excellent job saying all the right things in the right tone to the camera.

    Here's the Val Richie I know.

    We're all sitting in the King County Courtroon on Thursday (Thursday is sex offender day in King County and it's a packed house due to a recent sex trafficking bust! By that I mean a cop posing as a working girl arrested a group of careless guys.

    Next to me is a guy who was part of this arrest, his wife has shown the courage to join him in his moment of humiliation. He has his head down in shame as his wife crys softly over their shared shattered lives.

    Val comes walking down the hallway with a snap in his step like a kid in a candy store, takes a look at the broken husband, weeping shattered wife and the flashes the biggest grin you can imagine as he takes in his the full scope of his success for the day.

    I couldn't be sure if he took more joy in the broken husband, or shattered wife. Perhaps he caught a glance if himself in the mirror and was smiling at that. Here's a great photo shoot he apparently had done of himself, perhaps for playboy magazine:

    http://lynnsavaresephotography.com/vr

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait! There is sex in Seattle??
    I thought all their time was spent in raising the minimum wage to $15/hr.

  • Domina Elle||

    Something not touched upon in this article, what were the undercover police doing all those months that they were 'investigating'? How often were they 'dipping in'? How much sexual contact did they enjoy before they dropped the hammer?

  • Beatrix||

    Well, to be "invited" to join this group you had to have written a minimum of 3 reviews, and the reviews had to be verified with the provider. But word on the street is that they were seeing the ladies right up until the bust went down. In court documents ome of the detectives said he went, but he didn't actually "do" anything. However, since this saftey was in place for their safety as well as the men, there is no reason to believe they would have lied about seeing them.

  • Wally Ford||

    Thank you Elizabeth for exposing the hypocrisy involved in this "crusade:.

  • Beatrix||

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but at the same time prostitution arrests have gone down, state legislators enacted civil forfeiture against us. And since civil forfeiture is intended for eminent domain issues, we don't even have to be charged with a crime to have our home, car or bank account taken--just a law officer's statement that we are using our property to commit crime. Police get to keep almost all of the liquidate proceeds.

    STICK TO THE FACTS:
    1. POLICE are the guys who victimize sex workers.
    2. SEXUAL MISCONDUCT is the #1 complaint about police nationally
    3. This focus on human sex trafficking is a front for anti-prostitution.

  • Fuzzyedia||

    I recently attended a friends wedding and my understanding is that the bride did not believe in pre-marital sex.

    In seemed like a beautiful cerimony, but in Richey-land that ring on her finger was a tool to turn a "no" into a "yes."

    I think it's pretty clear this what appeared to be a ceremony was in fact an example of sex trafficking and extreme coercion.

    Well, only if Valiant can find a way to profit from it.........

  • Wally Ford||

    Wow, well said Fuzzy!

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