No more free Nookie : Spotsylvania ends massage parlor policy Police no longer to engage in sex acts as part of investigation BY KIRAN KRISHNAMURTHY TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Feb 18, 2006 SPOTSYLVANIA -- Spotsylvania County authorities have suspended their much-ridiculed practice of allowing undercover officers to take part in sex acts while investigating alleged prostitution at massage parlors. Spotsylvania Sheriff Howard Smith said his decision was in response to county residents' concerns about the unorthodox tactics. "I understand the feelings and concerns the citizens of this county have expressed. And I empathize with those feelings," he said in a brief statement yesterday. Smith said his senior staff will review the practices and report back to him as soon as possible. He declined to comment further. Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney William F. Neely, whose office authorized the practices, said that authorities would evaluate the measures and decide whether to reinstate them or attack the problem by enforcing local ordinances, which he described as less effective. "It's going to be very difficult," he said, adding other approaches might diminish the ability of authorities to seize assets and that business owners might simply reopen if the financial threat is minimized. He said the sheriff had not consulted him before deciding to suspend the practices. Henry Connors Jr., chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, applauded the sheriff's decision. He said he expects the practices will be halted permanently. Spotsylvania authorities have been lampooned nationally and internationally this week. Connors said the episode "has tarnished our image somewhat," adding, "It's been a long week." He called the sheriff "a very good man with a tough job." Neely has said the sex acts had to proceed beyond fondling because touching is not a crime in Virginia. He said authorities sought felony sex-crime charges, rather than misdemeanor prostitution charges, in their attempts to shut down massage parlors and seize business assets. The prosecutor also said more than a verbal agreement was needed because some of the defendants spoke little or no English. Connors said he would have preferred working to change state law, rather than working around it. Neely said yesterday that he welcomes help from the General Assembly. The practices, which The Times-Dispatch reported in 2003 in another Spotsylvania massage parlor case and which were detailed by The Washington Post on Monday in reporting on the Moon Spa case, is not without precedent elsewhere. Similar tactics have been employed, but discontinued, in Phoenix, Louisville, Ky., and suburban Maryland. Spotsylvania authorities have noted that a judge did not caution them in the 2003 case involving an establishment called Genex. An undercover detective testified in that case that two women fondled him on separate occasions and attempted oral sex, making contact in one instance. He testified that he stopped the women before they went further. Judge Gordon Willis of Spotsylvania General District Court certified charges to a grand jury after the testimony, and the case resulted in convictions. Connors said he doesn't believe Spotsylvania has more of a problem with massage parlors than other large, growing localities in Virginia. Still, he said authorities need to keep an eye on parlors. "There's no disagreement about busting crime," he said. "The disagreement came over the tactics."