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Hernando man found not guilty on prostitution charge

BROOKSVILLE — A lack of evidence and conflicting statements from police officers led to a not guilty verdict Tuesday in the case of a 28-year-old Ridge Manor man arrested as part of the Brooksville Police Department's recent prostitution sting.

William Lambrix stood trial for soliciting prostitution, a second-degree misdemeanor, after police said he agreed to pay $20 for oral sex.

But unlike the other solicitation cases going to trial this week, the police did not properly record the conversation. The prosecution's case rested entirely on the testimony of Officer Krystal Nix, who acted as the decoy, and Officer Shawn Terry and Sgt. John Messer.

Lambrix's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Laura Drake, underscored the lack of evidence and called the charges "unsubstantiated." She also noted that the officers wrote in a sworn statement that an audio recording was made and questioned why they could not produce it.

The six-member jury had a difficult time reaching a verdict, spending two hours deliberating and telling the judge at one point they were split 50-50. The judge ordered them to continue deliberating and 30 minutes later, they emerged with the acquittal.

Lambrix, who is a convicted sex offender, was not released because of an outstanding warrant pending in another county.

The fourth trial of an expected 10 this week, against Steven Butterworth of Inverness, concluded around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday with a guilty verdict.

Butterworth, 45, took the stand in his defense telling the jurors, "I never agreed to anything" when the officer approached his car Sept. 9 at the BP gas station.

Butterworth was sentenced to three days in jail and six months of probation.

So far, prosecutors failed to prove two cases, and have won two in the string of arrests stemming from the police operation in September.

Mistrial declared

In a separate trial elsewhere at the courthouse, Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing declared a mistrial after the jury could not reach a verdict in the matter of Tony Lamont Sanders, who was charged with five felony charges, including grand theft auto, reckless driving and fleeing and eluding sheriff's deputies. The judge is expected to convene a new jury Thursday to hear the case.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or at 352-754-6114.

By the numbers

10 The number of trials expected this week related to a prostitution sting in September in Brooksville.

2 The number of cases that prosecutors have been unable to prove, so far.

2 The number of convictions that prosecutors have won, so far.

Hernando man found not guilty on prostitution charge 11/18/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 7:52pm]
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