WARREN - When prosecutors agree this week to grant immunity to several men who frequented Warren massage parlors for sex in exchange for their court testimony, they may not be taking into account one important element involved with the case.
"I understand about shutting these places down, but what about the wives?" said one tearful wife who had just found out the truth about her husband's habits earlier in the day Thursday.
"I know one thing, today my world was turned upside down," said the woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I threw my husband out today. ... There's just so many lies that he told."
Her husband was one of 15 men across northeast Ohio who were served a subpoena Wednesday as customers who frequented the eight massage parlors in Warren that were padlocked under court order a week ago.
Until then the men had been identified by investigators only with initials. The men had been used as witnesses in the Ohio Attorney General's investigation into questionable operations at the massage parlors, giving details of sexual relations in exchange for money that occurred inside the parlors. The information was used to obtain search warrants and raid the parlors last month.
The woman's husband, according to affidavits, told investigators that he frequented the Hot Sun Spa on West Market Street once or twice per month throughout the last year. He said he paid $50 at the door and then up to $100 for sex or oral sex.
Since the raids, the city has begun legal action to shut down the parlors by declaring them a nuisance and rescinding their health department licenses.
Attorneys for the city said they subpoenaed only 15 of about 40 men who unknowingly served as confidential informants in the sweep.
Testimony from the men is sought for a hearing Monday on a preliminary injunction to continue the nuisance / abatement action against the businesses that have also had their licenses pulled, or suspended by Warren's Health Department, for illegal prostitution.
The allegations surfaced in a yearlong undercover investigation by agents with Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and affidavits from the customers accompanied search warrants that were served during a citywide sweep May 30.
The men's court appearance is required Monday before Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay, who is hearing all eight nuisance cases.
If customers, known as "Johns," ignore the subpoenas, they can be held in contempt.
If they honor the subpoenas, they will be granted immunity against any prostitution-related criminal charges, prosecutors said.
So far no one has been charged criminally in the spa cases except one woman at a spa that remained open after the license was suspended.
But Thursday night, one tearful wife said she now is dealing not only with the marital infidelity, but fears about her health and her future.
"I've never been sick in my life. But I've been off a week with double pneumonia, and I can't get better," the tearful 47-year-old woman said Thursday evening. She said she has had a lengthy bout with a yeast infection that lingers despite repeated treatment, leaving her to fear that it might be something more serious.
"Now I have to get an AIDS test," she said.
Warren city prosecutor Traci Timko said if the woman's husband knew he had HIV or AIDS when they had sex, he could be charged with second-degree felonious assault. If that were the case, she said the woman could file charges where the couple lived.
The woman is angry that when agents from the state Attorney General's office came to her home about two months ago they excluded her from the conversation with her husband, asking her to step out of the room. Her husband, she said, later lied to her saying it was about him being a witness in a drug case.
He continued to maintain that story, even when he was served a subpoena Wednesday to testify in Warren Municipal Court.
And now that she learned the truth, only by reading about it in a newspaper article, she is angry that the prosecutors are offering immunity to the "Johns," including her husband.
"There are victims. Not just your trafficking girls. There is a whole other story," the woman said through tears and stopping to hack uncontrollably as she continues to battle her lung ailments.
"I have never been sick a day in my life, and now I am always sick," she cried. "I think they are overlooking this. They are saying, 'We won't charge them if they testify.' But what about us?" she demanded tearfully.