T-R files another appeal in ‘Does’
The Tribune-Review on Tuesday once again appealed a judge’s orders concealing the identities of two ‘John Does’ whose names would otherwise be made public in the prostitution case of Susanne Teslovich.
Teslovich, 55, a former Fayette County commissioner, was arrested in March 2000 for allegedly acting as madam to a group of prostitutes. Teslovich operated what was advertised as an ‘escort service’ out of her Menallen Township home. Her trial is slated for later this year.
The two men, known in court papers only as John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2, had their true names removed from case documents by order of Fayette County Judge Gerald R. Solomon.
‘We’ve learned that this case should go to trial (soon), and the (state Superior) Court told us to seek an expedited appeal. To show that we mean business, we have done that today, weeks ahead of schedule,’ said Ron Barber, an attorney representing the Tribune-Review.
In the newspaper’s filing, Barber claims Solomon was wrong in stating that the two men were not even interviewed by police in the case.
Barber refers to a document filed by District Attorney Nancy Vernon in August 2000 in which a doctor whose name is blacked out is interviewed about alleged contact with a prostitute.
According to the document, the doctor initially denied the encounter, but later admitted to police that he had lied. He said he had paid to ‘check out’ a prostitute.
The prostitute also was interviewed, and said the doctor was using illegal drugs when she visited his office in the Cherry Tree shopping and office complex in South Union Township.
She said the doctor engaged in a sex act in her presence and paid her for the visit.
‘Questions have arisen concerning at least one John Doe’s illicit drug use, admitted payment of a large sum of money to merely ‘check out’ a dancer (and) admitted lying to police,’ Barber said.
Barber’s motion also questions Solomon’s impartiality:
‘Unfortunately, the trial court displayed, as it has throughout these proceedings, an almost unbelievably unbalanced approach. The trial court pursued what appeared to be a single-minded purpose of ruling in favor of these mystery men.’
Solomon ‘found that secret justice was required here so that no one would ever think these unknown professionals had called the escort service. (He) did not even pause long enough to realize that John Doe admits that he called the service, repeatedly, and purposely,’ the appeal said.
The state Superior Court reversed Solomon in May and ordered that he hold a hearing to balance the public’s right to know against the Does’ privacy concerns.
Solomon held the mandated hearing in June but refused much of the Tribune-Review’s attempt to present evidence.
During the hearing, attorneys representing the Does elicited testimony from a psychologist about the possible effects of revealing their identities.
Dr. Paul Bernstein testified that the men would undergo unnecessary and intensified pain should their names become public.
In the appeal, Barber notes that the psychologist had never met either John Doe and did not know why their names came to appear in the Teslovich case documents.
‘He was permitted to testify, over objection, despite twice describing his own opinions as speculative,’ the appeal said.
After the hearing, Solomon ended up reaching the same conclusion: that the Does should remain protected from public scrutiny.
‘The trial court in this matter has committed a manifest abuse of discretion in imposing secrecy here,’ the Tribune-Review’s appeal claims.
Barber says the Superior Court justices will have some interesting reading in preparation for the case.
‘The brief contains information that the Superior Court could not have imagined was there when we were last before them,’ he said.
The Superior Court will either rule or set a date for arguments at a later date.