More than half of 110 Bellevue sex sting cases dismissed due to technicality
BELLEVUE -- After more than a hundred people were arrested early September following an eight-day prostitution sting in Bellevue, 61 of those cases have now been dismissed due to a Washington state law technicality, according to a Bellevue police news release.
"Operation On Demand" targeted online sex buyers in King County and was the largest operation of its kind, investigators said.
The sting occurred in August in the north end of downtown Bellevue and involved more than 60 officers.
Undercover officers and detectives from Bellevue Police and King County Sheriff's Office posed as prostitutes to gather evidence from the online sex buyers, according to the release. The sting resulted in the arrest of 110 people for the misdemeanor crime of patronizing a prostitute.
Part of the operation included hidden cameras to capture elements of the crime. Audio conversations were unintentionally recorded between the suspects and undercover officers in 61 out of 110 cases.
Police and King County sheriff's deputies set up hidden cameras in a downtown Bellevue condo to record evidence.
Because state law requires two-party consent to record audio conversations, the City Attorney's Office dismissed the 61 cases, according to the release.
"Disappointing, absolutely, but it's as simple as a setback. That's all it is. It's not going to impact our resolve with the bigger picture that we're focusing in on. We'll learn from our missteps and do better next time.," said police Chief Steve Mylett.
The Sheriff's Office owned the equipment.
"At this point, we believe it was very much unintentional. It could be something as simple as the machine malfunctioning. We don't' know yet, but we're going find out," Mylett said
The rest of the cases will go forward. Most of the men won't face prosecution, but Mylett said he hopes the investigation has made an impact on them.
"They've been outed as individuals who were soliciting prostitutes, and I know that for some of them, the impact in their personal lives is far greater than anything the court could have ever done to them," he said.
And the investigations will continue in Bellevue, the police chief pledged.
"We're not stopping. There will be future operations. There may be operations going on right now."