SEATTLE — King County has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle the lawsuit of a 45-year-old woman who says when she was a runaway decades ago, sheriff’s deputies left her at a massage business where she was forced into prostitution.
Under the settlement terms, the woman — who asked to be identified by her initials, M.T. — has agreed to drop her case and any other potential claims against the county and its employees, while the county admitted no wrongdoing, The Seattle Times reported.
Police reports written by an undercover detective during that time as part of a prostitution sting operation were key in corroborating the woman’s claims and led to the favorable settlement, her attorney Lincoln Beauregard said.
The reports say the detective, Jon Holland, picked up then-17-year-old M.T. at a bus stop on Pacific Highway South in December 1993 and gave her a ride to The Golden Touch, a strip-mall massage business.
Holland later told two uniformed deputies to go to the business and identify M.T., and they confirmed her age and left the girl there, an affidavit he later wrote says.
M.T. contends the operator of the business, a convicted pimp and rapist, took her that night to a house in Bellevue, where she was assaulted and held captive for weeks, while being forced to work as a prostitute.
M.T. eventually escaped, but that initial encounter indoctrinated her into the sex trade and led to years of drug abuse, mental health problems and other issues, she says. She sued the county last year, claiming in her complaint filed in King County Superior Court that deputies ignored mandatory reporting laws and “failed to exercise even the slightest care … to prevent the life-altering sexual and physical abuse that M.T. subsequently endured.”
King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office lawyers defended the case on behalf of the county Sheriff’s Office and twice failed to get the case thrown out.
The prosecutor’s office declined to comment and referred questions to the Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. Tim Meyer, spokesperson for Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, said Tuesday the Sheriff’s Office had no comment.
Holland, 57, who retired in 2019 after 30 years in law enforcement, didn’t respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.