Woman who claims officer dropped her off at known trafficking ring as a teenager settles her case.
King County, Washington, is set to pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a 45-year-old woman who alleged she was a teenage runaway nearly three decades ago and sheriff’s deputies left her at a Federal Way massage parlor, The Golden Touch, where she was forced into sex trafficking. She has been identified only as M.T. in the suit. Under the settlement terms, the plaintiff has agreed to drop her case and any other potential claims against the county and its employees.
Although the county did not admit to any wrongdoing, “Decades-old police reports written by an undercover detective as part of a prostitution sting operation proved key in corroborating the woman’s claims and led to the favorable settlement,” said her attorney, Lincoln Beauregard. “The strength of the case was that a jury wouldn’t like to hear about a cop leaving little girls with pimps at a house of prostitution. That’s not a good look.”
M.T. was a high school dropout who had left a troubled home and had nowhere to live in the early ‘90s. King County Sheriff’s Detective. Jon C. Holland picked her up off of the side of a highway in 1993 while working undercover. M.T., without any other option, said a neighbor she babysat for worked at the massage parlor and Holland offered to take her there. “By then, the detective had been investigating The Golden Touch and its operators, Michael Larry Landry, and his girlfriend, Rochelle C. King, for more than a year and a half” for sex trafficking, court records show.
In 1994, amid the investigation, Landry, then 34, pleaded guilty in to six felony counts of promoting prostitution, including admitting that he “knowingly advanced the prostitution of (M.T.) at The Golden Touch Massage Parlor,” according to court records. After being dropped off by Holland, Landry, “a convicted pimp and rapist, took M.T. that night to a home in Bellevue, where she was assaulted and held captive for weeks, while being forced to work on the street as a prostitute,” the lawsuit states.
After Holland agreed to give M.T. a ride, he “asked her a few times how old she was,” an affidavit he later wrote stated. “She finally admitted to being seventeen years old. She started crying and said that she was scared to go there. She said she had never worked inside a massage parlor before. She asked me if I knew what she would be required to do. I told her that she would be required to perform sex acts on the patrons in exchange for money. I dropped her off at the business and watched her walk in.”
Holland, 57, ultimately retired in 2019 after 30 years in the field, and M.T. eventually escaped. However, the traumatic experience stuck with her and led to subsequent years on the streets as a sex worker and drug abuse. After seeking trauma therapy in 2018 from the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, M.T. said she realized she was a sex trafficking victim and that law enforcement had facilitated this. Her lawsuit argued that the county “failed to exercise even the slightest care to prevent the life-altering sexual and physical abuse that M.T. subsequently endured.”
The county agreed to settle after multiple attempts to get the case dismissed. M.T.’s settlement with partly “is intended to include funds for payment of any past or future health care costs related to my injuries arising from these claims and/or related injuries,” according to the agreement.