JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A Cole County judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging illegal sexual activities against a Jefferson City massage business.
Judge Cotton Walker ruled Friday in favor of Blue Lotus Asian Massage Therapy and owner William Porter. The business is located at 1801 Stadium Blvd. in Jefferson City.
"It is both unfortunate and clear to the Court that the stereotypical expectation of the public is that the term 'Asian,' when taken in the context of a massage business, leaves certain implications as to the availability of sexual contact to customers," Walker wrote in his judgment.
According to court documents, the Missouri Attorney General's Office failed to provide evidence to support claims the business promoted prostitution in a civil lawsuit filed in April 2021.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a letter to the Stadium Boulevard property owner, Tuebner Properties, LLC, about the allegations in September 2021. Schmitt asked the property owner to take action against the massage business to stop the alleged illegal activities.
Tuebner Properties, LLC, was removed from the case in July 2021.
According to the judgment, Schmitt failed to make a case that Porter was responsible for online posts that suggested sexual services are available at the massage business. After learning about the allegations, the judgment states Porter tried unsuccessfully to remove some posts from the internet.
Court documents show no arrests or citations were issued to Blue Lotus Asian Massage Therapy workers or customers. The judgment also states the business used workers licensed to give massages through the State of Missouri's Board of Therapeutic Massage.
Porter's attorney, David Bandre, said the state AG's lawsuit never should have been filed against the massage business.
A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office touted the office's program targeting illegal massage businesses.
“The Missouri Attorney General’s Hope Initiative has been successful in both shutting down illicit massage businesses and raising awareness about illicit massage businesses," spokesman Chris Nuelle said. "We will continue to use all of the resources available to us to combat human trafficking in illicit massage businesses across the state.”
Walker ordered the Missouri Attorney General's Office to cover court fees. Each party is responsible for paying its own legal costs, according to the judgment.