Lawyer: Interpreter was needed for woman in Duluth sauna case
DULUTH - The owner of the former Yoshiko Sauna in Duluth said she was entitled to an interpreter when police questioned her last year about running a house of prostitution. Since she wasn't provided one, her lawyer says her statement -- including...
DULUTH - The owner of the former Yoshiko Sauna in Duluth said she was entitled to an interpreter when police questioned her last year about running a house of prostitution. Since she wasn't provided one, her lawyer says her statement -- including her alleged comment that police were closing the last whorehouse in the area -- should be suppressed.
Suzy Woo-Young Kotts, 74, with addresses in Superior and Prior Lake, Minn., is charged with solicitation, inducement or promotion of prostitution. Her business at 18 N. 21st Ave. W. was closed in January 2009 because it didn't have a license to operate a sauna or any other kind of business, Duluth police said. It later was torn down.
Kotts has hired a new attorney -- Randall Tigue of Golden Valley, Minn. -- who appeared with her in St. Louis County District Court on Monday before Judge Eric Hylden. Tigue has vast experience representing adult businesses, strippers and strip club owners against legal challenges.
He represented the late Jim Gradishar, operator of the NorShor Experience strip club, in the businessman's dealings with the city.
Tigue argued Monday that under Minnesota law Kotts was entitled to an interpreter when she was being interviewed by Duluth and Superior police investigators. He also suggested that the taped interview was worthless because his client's responses were "totally inaudible'' while the audio recording of the investigating officer's questions were "clear as a bell.''
Kotts told the News Tribune that she came to this country from Korea in 1966. According to court records, she has prior prostitution convictions in Hennepin County in 1989 and 1991.
The defendant was accompanied in court Monday by Namhyee Kim, a court-appointed Korean interpreter, to ensure she understood the proceedings. Kim told the court she couldn't understand portions of the audio tape, either. Hylden told the parties that he would listen to the taped interview in his chambers.
Hylden gave Tigue until July 9 to submit legal arguments in support of his motion to suppress Kotts' statement to police. St. Louis County prosecutor Nathaniel Stumme has until July 16 to respond to Tigue.
On Jan. 7, 2009, Investigator Matt McShane of the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force and another officer interviewed Kotts at the Superior motel she owned. According to the criminal complaint, she told them she had owned the Yoshiko Sauna for about 16 years. She said she was making about $5,000 a month from it. She said that about 30 different women who came from other states worked at the sauna in the past year. She denied that she got half of each woman's $200 fee. She said she was paid whatever the women put in her safe. Police said Kotts stated there "are no more whorehouses in the area" now that hers has been shut down.
McShane testified Monday that Kotts had a heavy accent but that she had no problems following his questions. He advised her that if she didn't understand him she should let him know. McShane said there are other Duluth police reports involving Kotts in which she didn't appear to have any trouble communicating with police and didn't require the services of an interpreter. He said she never asked for an interpreter while he questioned her.The investigator said Kotts was never under arrest during the time she was being questioned. He said he simply was trying to get her side of the story of how Yoshiko Sauna was being operated.
Kotts underwent a mental health evaluation last year and was found competent to stand trial. She grabbed a reporter's arm Monday and attempted to comment on her case outside the courtroom, but was dissuaded from doing so by her attorney.
The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.