King County sued over lack of protection during trafficking investigation

SEATTLE — A woman is suing King County, contending that as a teenage runaway decades ago, sheriff’s deputies investigating a prostitution ring knew she and others were being trafficked but failed “to exercise even the slightest care” to protect her.

The lawsuit says instead, deputies continued an undercover investigation for months before authorities sought to arrest and charge Michael Larry Landry and Rochelle King for promoting prostitution in 1994, The Seattle Times reported.

During that time, the woman — identified in court documents as R.M. — alleges she remained captive, beaten and raped at The Golden Touch massage business and through escort services until she escaped from the couple’s Bellevue home.

A spokesperson for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Friday the office hadn’t been served with the lawsuit and deferred comment to the Sheriff’s Office. A spokesperson for interim King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said the Sheriff’s Office is “unable to comment on pending litigation.”

R.M. is the second woman to sue King County recently over sheriff’s deputies’ handling of the undercover probe from late 1992 to mid-1994 into Landry’s and King’s prostitution enterprise, which was operated mostly through massage businesses and escort services.

Last year, the county agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle the lawsuit of a woman identified as M.T., who as a teenager in 1993 was dropped off at The Golden Touch by an undercover detective, records show. Landry and King later forced M.T. into the sex trade.

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