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Hearings for Suspected Customers of Cambridge Brothel Will Be Public

Hearings on whether there is probable cause to criminally charge alleged customers of a high-end brothel — including professors and elected officials — must be held in public.
Hearings on whether there is probable cause to criminally charge alleged customers of a high-end brothel — including professors and elected officials — must be held in public. By Julian J. Giordano
By Sally E. Edwards and Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writers

Hearings on whether there is probable cause to criminally charge alleged customers of a high-end brothel — including professors and elected officials — must be held in public, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled Friday.

Under Massachusetts law, the 28 individuals accused of frequenting a prostitution ring in Cambridge and Watertown will face “show cause” hearings, where a Cambridge District Court official will decide whether there is enough evidence to pursue misdemeanor charges of soliciting sex.

The dates of the hearings have not yet been announced.

Though show cause hearings are typically held in private, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank M. Gaziano ruled Friday that they will be held publicly. The ruling follows requests by the Boston Globe, WBUR, and other media outlets, which argued that an open hearing would be in the public interest.

Gaziano wrote that having open hearings “promotes transparency, accountability, and public confidence” to ensure that “each individual accused of these crimes, no matter their station in life, is treated equally.”

He rejected appeals by the accused individuals’ lawyers, who argued that their client’s status as private citizens — rather than public figures or high-powered individuals — would not merit a public hearing.

“They are private citizens who face adverse and embarrassing collateral consequences if their name and image are published before they have the opportunity to face this case at a clerk’s hearing or in a court of law,” the lawyers wrote in a January filing.

But Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy insisted that the illegal operations catered to a “wealthy and well-connected clientele.”

“They are doctors, they are lawyers, they’re accountants, they are executives at high-tech companies, pharmaceutical companies, they’re military officers, government contractors, professors, scientists,” Levy said in a news conference last year. “Pick a profession, they’re probably represented in this case.”

The Cambridge Police Department and an official from the Department of Homeland Security initially issued complaints against the 28 “sex buyers” in mid-December.

Federal authorities first arrested the alleged ringleaders of the scheme in November, accusing them of operating a ring of brothels out of luxury apartment complexes through the greater Boston area and Eastern Virginia. The three individuals — Han Lee, James Lee, and Junmyung Lee — were accused of enticing women to participate in the network by offering them overnight lodging in the apartments.

On Friday, they were officially indicted by the federal grand jury in Boston on charges of conspiracy to persuade one or more individuals to engage in prostitution and money laundering conspiracy.

The indicted individuals could face sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

Correction: February 5, 2024

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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