A former Calgary firefighter charges with being a pimp told court on Thursday he had the authority to lawfully work at an escort agency because conversation with officials and studying a city bylaw led him to believe he was doing nothing wrong.
The accused testifying in his own defence, told Justice Patrick Sullivan that in September 2001, before Liaisons Escorts even opened, he called the Calgary Police Service to inquire about the legality of the business.
“I asked them straight out if the escort business was legal. They told me they supported the escort business, they support eh licence process,” said the accused who told the court police subsequently directed him to the city’s bylaw office. He said he then studied the dating the escort bylaw and also had several conversations with Marc Halat, the city’s chief licence inspector.
“I said, ‘Marc, this is a sex industry. I wan tot make sure everything is OK.’ He said as long as I stick to this, stick to the bylaws, everything will be alright.
“At the time, I concluded the escort business was sex for money and that it was legal in the City of Calgary.”
The accused and his lawyer Pat Fagan are attempting to convince Justice Patrick Sullivan that the city has legalized sex trade in licensing escorts and the agencies that the women have to be affiliated with. Because of that, Fagan wants a stay of all 15 prostitution-related charges against the accused, which include living on the avails of prostitution and procuring, stemming from two arrests – one on Oct. 26, 2002 and the other Jan. 27, 2003.
When asked by Crown prosecutor David Torske if the accused had actually read the bylaw, he agreed he had.
“Somewhere in there does it say its OK or legal to engage in prostitution?” asked Torske.
“It says it right here in that word escort,” said the accused pointing at a copy of the bylaw. “Absolutely everybody knows that an escort is in prostitution.”
“In the bylaw, that numbers 10 pages, are you telling this court that you read specifically the work prostitution?” countered Torske.
“I ultimately concluded that prostitute and escort was interchangeable and it was legal,” said the accused.
He also denied being directly involved in the business, as many of the escorts testified he had, but said he stepped in when his former girlfriend, who owned the business, dropped out of sight because of her cocaine addiction.
“I never entered the business for profit, I entered it to help my friend. I always intended to stay at arm’s length,” said the accused, who also denied pocketing thousands of dollars from the escorts in agency fees.
“Very seldom did it put money in my pocket,” said the accused. “I can’t deny that I didn’t get a tank of gas, but it was a minimal amount of money. I wasn’t motivated by money, I already had money.”
He also acknowledged that several escorts used his Kensington apartment to have sex with clients, where they were covertly videotaped.
Final arguments in the three-week trial get underway today.