Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Prostitution arrest brings suit

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An exotic dancer filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming her arrest on prostitution charges deprived her of the “fundamental right to work” as a stripper.

        Melissa Kelly, owner of Brittany's Playmates, argues in the lawsuit that a police sting operation unfairly targeted her with false prostitution charges because she is a woman.

        The accusations, she says, nearly forced her out of a thriving business that she claims frequently catered to the same police officers who later arrested her.

        “Melissa and Brittany's dancers became a favorite of the law enforce ment community at bachelor parties, et cetera,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court.

        Several of the allegations in the lawsuit were raised in 1997 when Ms. Kelly was tried in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on three counts of promoting prostitution.

        Although she was convicted by Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, an appeals court later threw out the verdict because there was “legally insufficient evidence.”

        Ms. Kelly's attorney, Kenneth Lawson, has argued that the nude dancers only simulated sex acts during their routines.

        In the lawsuit, Mr. Lawson said his client seeks unspecified damages from the cities of Cincinnati, Blue Ash and Lockland. The suit also names 17 police officers from those cities and two informants.

        The suit alleges that the officers violated Ms. Kelly's right of free expression, fundamental right to work and earn a living, her right to privacy and her right to equal protection under the law.

        The last charge stems from her claim that her business was targeted because it employed only female dancers, while male dance businesses were not prosecuted.

        Cincinnati officials declined comment on the suit, but Blue Ash Safety Director Bruce Henry said there was sufficient evidence to bring the prostitution charges. “She received her due process,” he said. “I don't see what the issue is.”


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