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The Book of the Play: The N.Y. Royal Order of Jesters Scandal

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Sandy Frost Newsvine

Feds 1, Jesters 0: Court Papers Revealed

Fri Mar 28, 2008

news, prostitution, buffalo, royal-order-of-jesters, tills, trowbridge, stebick

Sandy Frost

Talk about getting caught with your pants down.

Not only were three members of the Royal Order of Jesters AKA Shriners busted in a FBI investigation into prostitution, but one of them pleaded guilty to a felony and is in the process of cutting a deal in exchange for what he knows.

The FBI had been investigating prostitution in the Buffalo area for 15 months and, according to a March 9, 2008 Buffalo News article, three Jesters have been caught in the cross fire. These include a NY Supreme Court Judge Ron Tills and his law clerk Michael Stebick, who both recently resigned, and a retired police captain, John Trowbridge, who pleaded guilty in federal court last Thursday, March 20, to felony charges that he helped transport girls across state lines to Jesters functions for the purposes of prostitution.

Buffalo media has reported that retired police captain and member of the Royal Order of Jesters, John Trowbridge, 60, retired from the Lockport Police Department in 2002 after 29 years of service. He admitted to and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawfully transporting an illegal alien woman, identified as "Jane Doe No. 1," on October 28, 2005 from Buffalo to a Royal Order of Jesters party in Kentucky.

In the case of the United States of America v John Trowbridge, he was charged with one felony count of transporting a female in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution. The United States Attorney charges can be read here.

According to the plea agreement, Twobridge waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a 1 count felony, for which the maximum possible sentence is imprisonment for up to 10 years, a $250,000 fine, a mandatory $100 special assessment and three years probation. The plea agreement can be read here.

Trowbridge admitted in the plea agreement and factual basis that he knowingly transported an individual in interstate commerce, that he aided or abetted another to engage in prostitution. He agreed to the following facts that:

* Trowbridge did on or about October 28, 2005, with a now former New York State Supreme Court Judge (Ron Tills), an attorney (Michael Stebick) and others transported an illegal alien to Kentucky to engage in sexual intercourse and other sexual activity for which she would be paid a fee.

* It was customary for these men and others, who are also members of a men's organization (The Royal Order of Jesters), to bring women to some of their meetings, intending for the women to engage in sexual intercourse and other sexual activity with the organization's members in exchange for money.

*The parties further agree that in the fall of 2006, the same men transported a different woman from New York to Pennsylvania and that prior to the trip, the retired judge had paid this woman to engage in sexual acts with him at the Golden Acupressure massage parlor.

The court document further explains that the government had independent information prior to the time the defendant indicated a desire to cooperate with the government and agreed to give statements regarding the defendant's involvement in criminal activity. It is understood and agreed to by the parties that additional information provided by the defendant cannot be used against or further incriminate him.

If Trowbridge fully complied with all terms and conditions of the plea agreement, the government will move the court at sentencing to impose a sentencing range of 0 to 6 months.

Trowbridge agreed to provide the court with all relevant information concerning his background, his character and involvement in the offense charged. He also may have the right to request DNA testing of evidence in the possession of the government.

Additionally, he agreed to cooperate with the government by providing complete and truthful information regarding his knowledge of any and all criminal activity, whether undertaken by himself or others, in any involving or related to the unlawful transportation of individuals for prostitution or other sexual activity which is prohibited by law.

In exchange for Trowbridge's plea of guilty and cooperation, he will not be prosecuted by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for any other federal criminal offenses.

This process involves a "Waiver of Indictment" and it can be read here.

U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny accepted Trowbridge's guilty plea and scheduled sentencing at 9 AM on July 31.

There is no news yet if Tills or Stebick are planning to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney.

The FBI, the U.S. Border Patrol and members of a human trafficking task force are also investigating other allegations that the Royal Order of Jesters have been using prostitutes at their national or international events, normally called "The Book of the Play."

The Royal Order of Jesters is a 501c10 non profit fraternity, with 23,500 members organized into 191 chapters. Their members include high profile public servants like former judge Ron Tills, as well as Duval County, Florida, Circuit Court Judge, David M. Gooding.

Further Reading:

The Royal Order of Jesters - The Shriners Secret Society Secret Society - 'Mirth is King'

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns