Former sheriff’s sergeant pleads not guilty in barista case

EVERETT — A former Snohomish County sheriff’s sergeant pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he tipped off bikini baristas in exchange for sexual favors.

Darrell O’Neill, a deputy for 30 years, is charged with felony second-degree promotion of prostitution with aggravating factors of abuse of a position of trust and having engaged in a major economic offense. He’s also charged with two counts of official misconduct, gross misdemeanors alleging he intentionally refrained from his duty.

O’Neill allegedly warned baristas working for Java Juggs stands when their businesses were targeted by undercover officers.

He was arrested in June after repeatedly undercutting police investigating what appears to have been a highly profitable sex-for-money business at the stands, according to prosecutors.

Wearing a suit and standing beside his attorney Mark Mestel, O’Neill entered his pleas in Snohomish County Superior Court Thursday afternoon.

A trial date was set for Nov. 7 after he waived his right to a speedy trial.

O’Neill, 58, was arrested after police in Everett, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Kent raided seven espresso stands in June 2013. He later retired.

The investigation found the Java Juggs stands hired young women who have worked as strippers and escorts and “essentially operate as drive-through strip clubs or brothels,” court papers say.

The investigation focused on conspiracy to promote prostitution, money laundering and leading organized crime. According to a search warrant in the case, a key figure in the investigation is Carmela Panico, 51, described as the owner of the Java Juggs coffee huts. She’s under investigation for promoting prostitution and permitting prostitution.

O’Neill allegedly has admitted a stand worker engaged in sexually explicit shows for him and sometimes engaged with him in sex acts, according to court papers.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com

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