Friday, October 9, 1999

Nick Pron and
Ariel Teplitsky

p. A1.

Judge refuses to name names in escort case

Dubious client list seen as harmful to innocent men

An escort agency's "john list" — which has kept Toronto buzzing for days with speculation over who was on it — will stay confidential, a judge has decided.

It was expected that a heavily censored version of the list will be released today at a downtown Toronto courtroom, minus the names of the customers, their home addresses and anything else that could identify them.

That was yesterday's ruling of Mr. Justice Harry Keenan, who told a packed courtroom that the names on the list couldn't be verified, and releasing the information could cause embarrassment to some "innocent people."

The list had been the hot topic of debate on talk shows in the city ever since it was disclosed earlier this week that three of the women who worked for the escort service could be carriers of the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.

Hundreds of men hired women from Exotica during the five years that it and two other services, Sweet Escorts and Sweet Sensations, were in business before being shut down last year by police.

The alleged owner of the business, Mark Lukacko, a 33-year-old father of one who lives in Mississauga is on trial for 15 prostitution-related charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

Detectives with the Toronto police special investigation services seized the computerized list of customers when they raided an office in Etobicoke during an investigation called Project All Sorts.

The police also found index cards with the names of 25 female escorts who worked for the agency. On the back of three of the cards were written warnings that the women could be HIV carriers.

NHL names appear on list

The trial has received international attention after it was revealed in The Star that some of the names on the john list matched those of National Hockey League players. But there is no way to independently verify whether a customer gave the agency a fake name.

That was pointed out by Keenan yesterday, when he told the Ontario Court of Justice trial that the only name on the list he recognized was entertainer Donny Osmond, adding that the word "bogus" was written beside it.

Keenan had invited media lawyers to his University Ave. courtroom yesterday to argue whether the list should be released to the news media.

Escort service employee made up to 10 calls a night

CITY-TV reporter Lorne Honickman, who's also a lawyer, told the judge that the public had a right to know the names on the list.

He added, though, that even if the media got access to the list, it didn't necessarily mean they would publish any of the names.

Both Crown Attorney Calvin Barry and defence lawyer Michael Heller argued that the names shouldn't be disclosed because they weren't relevant to the case against Lukacko. None of the customers, Barry pointed out, would be called as witnesses to the trial.

The judge agreed, using the analogy of wiretap evidence which is typically edited to take out the names of informants or details on the special techniques police used during their investigations.

It was clear, why most of the reporters — at least 20, including one from the New York Times — were covering yesterday's proceedings.

Moments after making his ruling the courtroom quickly cleared, and only a couple of reporters stayed behind.

With the publication ban issue out of the way, the trial then heard from a woman who can only be identified by her stage name, Niki. Her true identity is protected by the court. She testified she worked at an agency Lukacko ran in 1993 called Nice and Naughty.

Lukacko pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of living off the avails of prostitution in relation to that operation.

The 28-year-old woman, in green khakis, her hair done in a pony-tail, testified she was hired by Lukacko after having dinner with his family in April, 1993.

She said as many as eight other escorts worked for him at ant one time. Niki said she worked almost every day, averaging between three and 10 calls a night.

"For a half-hour call a client was allowed to release (ejaculate) once," she told Barry, also describing the various sex acts she was asked to perform.

Lukacko remained expressionless as he sat in the prisoner's box, silently observing his former employee.

The witness testified Lukacko arranged the appointments and prices and would charge anywhere from $140 to $200 for a "full service" call. She was paid $80 per call regardless of the price, she told Barry.

"Some nights we made $1,000 and he made equal. Other nights we made three, four hundred and he made equal," she testified.

She and Lukacko usually drove her and the other escorts to and from calls in his "Beat up blue Jimmy," and would often joke with the escorts afterwards about their clients' quirks and sexual performance.

During the day, she continued, the escorts would sometimes do "in-calls," meeting clients at one of three locations that Lukacko allegedly rented: one on Walmer Rd. "behind Shoppers Drug Mart," one near Bloor St. and Dovercourt Rd. and the third near Yonge St. and Isabella Ave. The witness likened these to bawdy houses.

Ads for escorts appeared in several magazines

She told the court that Lukacko was never abusive, and would be more likely to beg or whine to get the escorts to attend calls if they objected.

She also testified, Lukacko advertised for the escorts in various magazines including NOW, eye, and even Buy and Sell — a marketing move she called tacky.

"We were disgusted by it, that we had ads in there next to automotive parts— But we got a lot of calls."

The next witness was Toronto police Detective Burt O'Mara, who told Barry that Lukacko was in the escort agency office with a receptionist when police raided the business in March, 1998.

Lukacko ordered the receptionist not to talk to the police, the detective recalled. The trial was to resume today.

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Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 31, 2001
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