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Buffalo News Editorial on Jesters prostitution Mann Act scandal

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Buffalo News


More troubling accusations

Public trust in government service eroded by officials’ character flaws

Updated: 03/20/08 6:43 AM

Retired Lockport captain pleads guilty in Jesters prostitution case

Albany has provided a fair share of the recent grist for the old seamy, sensational sex story mill, what with a governor resigning over allegations he was a client of a high-end prostitution ring — one that operated across state lines, no less. But the governor, unfortunately, is not the only example.

Another case, this one local, also alleges violation of the Mann Act, which makes transporting anyone across state lines for “immoral purposes” a federal crime.

Retired Lockport Police Capt. John Trowbridge, 60, is expected to appear with his attorney today before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, where authorities have said Trowbridge will plead guilty to a criminal charge. He was implicated in a federal investigation, along with former State Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills, who became a state hearing officer in retirement, and Tills’ former law clerk, Michael Stebick, in allegedly taking a local massage parlor worker in a mobile home to an out-of-state meeting of the Royal Order of Jesters, a social group associated with the Shriners and Masons — organizations now distancing themselves from this episode, and pointing to their good works in the community.

The attention drawn to now-former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, and court-document allegations he paid for a call girl who traveled from New York to Washington for an assignation, eclipsed this case. But anyone involved in the road trip could face federal prosecution for taking a person over state lines for prostitution.

The allegations are serious. Tills, in particular, is not only a former judge but a former lawmaker, having served in the Assembly. Stebick is a now-former officer of the court, having resigned. Trowbridge was a law enforcer. All held positions of trust and enjoyed high standing in the community, and as such accepted responsibility for a high standard of behavior.

Each deserves his day in court, and a presumption of innocence until that day. But the charges alone in this case, combined with the scandal involving Spitzer, are yet another disappointing blow to trust in public service.

Further Reading:

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

The Shriners - The 'Krafty' Klowns