Appeals court reinstates prostitution charges against 19 Austintown cabaret dancers
By Peter H. Milliken
The 7th District Court of Appeals has reinstated misdemeanor prostitution charges against 19 dancers charged with engaging in sex for hire at the Go Go Girls Cabaret in Austintown.
The appellate court ruled Monday that Judge David D’Apolito of Mahoning Count Area Court, Austintown, erred in granting the dancers’ motion to remove from evidence the cabaret’s computers and the surveillance videos they contained, which were seized by police using a search warrant.
“The security camera recordings do not violate state or federal wiretap laws,” the appeals court said of the recordings showing dancers performing for patrons in the cabaret’s private rooms.
The state, which filed the appeal, said the videos offered evidence of prostitution that allegedly occurred in April and May of 2009.
Because the dancers “failed to meet their burden of proof to challenge the seized evidence, the trial court had no basis on which to suppress the videos,” the three-judge panel ruled.
The appellate court also ruled that Judge D’Apolito erred in dismissing the charges because he “went beyond the scope of a pretrial motion to suppress by viewing and evaluating the evidence that formed the basis for the state’s case.”
Neither county prosecutors, nor the dancers’ lawyers could be reached for comment late Monday.
The 19 defendants are Amanda Wallace, Loni Fredenberg, Jessica Scarsella, Amanda Barbe, Ericka Jackson, April Ellis, Michelle Benner, Jasmin Roque, Stephanie Yash, Amanda Sherrill, Leann Phillips, Cassandra Fricker, Mary Pratt, Trisha Narkum, Nicole Montecalvo, Tiffany Smith, Kara Mumford, Shannon Surrena, and Brandi McNair.
The unanimous three-judge panel consisted of Judge Cheryl L. Waite, who wrote the decision, and Judge Joseph J. Vukovich, both of the 7th District Court, and Judge Frank D. Celebrezze Jr., of the 8th District Court of Appeals, who sat as a visiting judge.