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DanceSafe.org : Raves and Club Drugs in the News : US WA: Series: Conduct Unbecoming (Part 2 Of 3)
Pubdate: Tue, 02 Aug 2005
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: editpage@seattlepi.com
Website: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/
Author: Eric Nalder And Lewis Kamb
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/coke.htm (Cocaine)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mdma.htm (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/meth.htm (Methamphetamine)


CONDUCT UNBECOMING

Reports Of Sex, Drug Abuse -- And Little Police Work

Second of three parts. 

Dan Ring had an undercover car, a top-secret federal clearance, access to a roomful of sophisticated spying tools -- and an $80,000-a-year salary to encourage him to track down criminals in King County's sex trade. 

For 14 years, the detective worked on his own, rarely checking in, partying with prostitutes, making deals with escort-service operators, driving the county executive's car and traveling to Mexico, Thailand and Canada. 

Then in October 2004, a King County Sheriff's Office captain made a discovery. 

Capt.  Cameron K.  Webster searched a database where the Sheriff's Office keeps case reports, incident reports, witness statements, suspect statements and much more. 

Over a five-year period, he found only 17 entries with Ring's name, compared with 4,500 for the other officers in intelligence.  The unit usually has five to six officers. 

"I have been unable to uncover any evidence that any intelligence Dan has gathered on the adult entertainment industry in the last five years has led to a single criminal investigation, arrest or charge," Webster wrote. 

Beyond that, "there was no record of Dan having filed a felony case in the last ten years."

Ring didn't agree with Webster's assessment of his work product, saying he kept his material in different files, and besides, he was out befriending sex-industry subjects to get information from them. 

"It is hard to get people to trust you when you are out arresting your buddies," he said. 

Webster was apparently the first administrator to closely examine Ring's record for a decade covering the administrations of Sheriffs Jim Montgomery and Dave Reichert.  Ring traveled so far below his supervisors' radar that he continued his antics for more than two years after two women -- his wife and an escort-service operator -- reported him for alleged drug use and abusive behavior. 

Unbeknownst to Ring's direct supervisor, Sgt.  Ray Green, Ring was under investigation by King County detectives, the FBI and Seattle police for a startling array of alleged crimes.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed up by doing scores of interviews and obtaining and reviewing thousands of pages of documents to understand how Ring operated -- how he became known to one local madam as "Captain Save-a-Ho."

Ring formed long-term relationships with two operators of large Seattle escort services, and though he denied helping in their business, he told the P-I that informant relationships with officers are what keep escort services in business. 

"It was unclear where his work with these sources ended and his personal life began, or was it all intertwined?" said Mark Ferbrache, supervisory special agent of the FBI's public corruption and white-collar crime office in Seattle, which helped King County investigate Ring. 

Charging papers -- in a case against Ring dismissed just before trial by King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng -- said Ring gave one escort service advice on how to avoid being caught by police, that he warned the service about police informants, checked the background of troublesome customers and employees, and revealed the identity of at least one undercover Seattle police officer. 

Janine Taylor, Ring's ex-wife, was busted by Seattle police vice officer Harvey Sloan in 1995 for flashing and touching a customer at a nude dancing club.  Sloan said when investigators told him Ring allegedly had blown his undercover identity after his arrest of prostitutes at the Westin Hotel: "I was not happy about it."

"If my ( undercover ) name was out there and I didn't know it and tried to use it again, I could've gotten hurt," said Sloan, who worked in SPD vice for 10 years starting in 1994. 

Ring's lawyer, Richard Hansen, said the case against Ring never would have worked in court because the escort-service operators who agreed to testify against him deny being involved in prostitution.  He also noted there was no evidence Ring received compensation for any help he supposedly provided. 

The P-I interviewed Rhonda Wallace, operator of Executive Privileges and Roxanne's Adult Entertainment, who said, "He would do what I asked him to do." She added that it was a two-way street.  She once gave him information on a cop suspected of raping one of her girls. 

"He made me his bitch.  If a cop calls me and says, 'You're going to do this and do that,' what choice do you have in this business?" she asked.  "I heard him loud and clear."

Wallace added, "He'd let me know when there was a sting coming up, stuff like that.  Whatever legal stuff we could circumvent."

She said Ring would call and tell her to "go on vacation," their code for an upcoming sting.  Ring warned her, she said, against hiring two escorts who had turned informants after a bust known as Garden of Eden.  She said he told her "not to touch 'em," that they were a "train wreck."

The madam, attired in sweatpants, a loose-fitting T-shirt and leopard print slippers, constantly took calls on a cell phone while the reporter talked to her.  Her women, she said, charge $300 an hour, and she gets a cut of $80. 

She said Ring gave her advice aimed at keeping her out of jail and in business.  She said he told her: Don't advertise that women will travel out of state for appointments, because that's a federal crime.  Don't use credit cards, which create a paper trail, and don't use the word "escorts" in advertising because under state law that is synonymous with prostitute. 

She said it was helpful when he checked the backgrounds of customers and potential employees, like the time he warned her away from a woman known to use drugs. 

She knew he was overstepping his boundaries as a sheriff's deputy, but she didn't think he was a bad guy.  "Dan was one of a kind.  ...  I think he just got caught up like a man can get caught up.  He was Captain Save-a-Ho."

She got immunity to testify, but added: "I'm glad it didn't go to trial."

Wallace worried that if the case had gone through a trial, she would have been exposed as a madam, scaring business away and possibly bringing unwanted attention. 

Ring got even cozier with another person in the sex trade. 

Janine Taylor had just turned 21 when she was caught up in Eurosport, a yearlong undercover sting operation set up by Ring in 1992.  Her troubled teenage life in South King County included extensive drug use and rehabilitation.  By the time Ring busted her, she'd been a nude dancer, an escort and a telephone operator at Personal Touch escort service.  The ex-operator of Personal Touch, Maxine Doogan, described Taylor as a young kid she'd taken into her home, practically off the streets. 

"When you have incredibly low self-esteem and you are doing drugs, you have sex you don't want to be having," said Taylor, who says she has left the sex trade and is building a new life. 

She said she was fiercely loyal to the escort-service operator, going to jail rather than testifying against her, a characteristic Ring would later say had attracted him to her -- a woman who could keep secrets. 

Taylor kept Ring's card after her arrest, and in 1993 contacted him to check on the status of her case.  They met for coffee and talked late into the night.  Taylor said one of her motives was to show a sheriff's deputy that she was a human being, and another was to get him on her side.  Soon they were dating, then living together. 

Long before they were married, she said, he shared confidential police information with her, constantly, and subtly tipped her off if undercover police operations were planned at Deja vu nude dancing clubs, where she worked.  When he found out something might come down, he'd strongly urge her not to go to work, but instead to go to dinner with him.  She recalls passing at least one tip to friends. 

Their system didn't work in February 1995 because they were fighting.  Ring paged her, but she ignored the page and went to work in the downtown Deja vu anyway.  Seattle vice cop Sloan, posing as a patron, arrested her for illegal touching and exposure during a table dance.  Ring met her at the jail and she recalls him telling her: "Maybe you should answer my pages.  I was trying to tell you not to go to work."

Jealousy -- And Handcuffs

Taylor said Ring mostly formed intimate bonds with people he'd collared, made friends with criminals and turned sheriff's equipment into toys at home. 

In their trouble-laced relationship, she recalled one early incident that combined his penchant for spying, his misuse of official tools and what Taylor describes as "sexual deviance."

"He believed me to be cheating.  Being Dan, he investigated the person he thought I was with," she said.  "He found out the guy was into pretty kinky sex. 

"He came up behind me and put his arms around me," she said.  "Next thing I knew I was in a police hold with cuffs on, face down with a pillow over my head.  I was thrashing for several minutes.  Screaming hysterically.  He just stopped.  He got off the bed.  He came over and took the cuffs off.  Didn't say anything."

Taylor ran and locked herself in the bathroom. 

"I heard him on the other side of the door, sliding down, like he was sitting down.  He always kept a gun on top of the refrigerator.  I heard a noise ( and ) I assumed he was getting his gun.  I really accepted there was no way out of the house and that I was going to die that night."

When she opened the door, she found him sobbing and apologizing. 

In an interview, Ring said Taylor had asked to be handcuffed.  However, in a declaration in King County Superior Court responding to Taylor's attempt to get a protection order in September 2001, Ring said only, "I put a pair of handcuffs in my pocket and during foreplay quickly cuffed her hands and held her down on the bed.  I did NOT smother her with a pillow."

It wasn't Ring's first use of handcuffs with a girlfriend.  In the 1980s, when Ring was working off duty as security at the Sea-Tac Red Lion, he dated an employee named Kathy Brister.  She said Ring used handcuffs on her and she felt uncomfortable. 

"I told him to stop and he did," Brister said. 

'I Was A Trophy'

Taylor had long ago grown weary of nude dancing, and hoped to stay away from it forever.  She hated the invasive touching by creepy customers and the ugly atmosphere. 

She quit dancing in August 1995.  Ring, the cop, opposed the move, she said, because he liked the money she made, and enjoyed visiting the clubs where she would perform lap dances for him. 

"He hated me quitting," she said.  "He was so grumpy.  He liked that I was a trophy, but that I could afford to live at his level."

Ring said stripping is legal, and licensed, in King County, and there's no law against him dating a stripper. 

Taylor spent a year bartending at an Azteca restaurant, and then put makeup on customers at Gene Juarez, the fashionable Seattle hair salon, as well as at a photo studio.  She and Ring married in 2000, on San Juan Island, something that he had urged. 

But the dark side was never far away, and she was about to be pulled again into her worst teenage nightmare -- drugs. 

Taylor said one reason she was attracted to Ring was the fact he didn't use drugs, something she avoided because of her harrowing teenage experiences.  But in the spring of 2001, she said, Ring came home from work "excited and nervous" and showed her some pills. 

"There was a drug case," she remembered him saying.  "These are unaccounted for."

"I said, 'What? We don't do drugs,' " she recalled.  " 'You are a policeman.  You have three kids.  We don't do drugs.  No.  Thanks for running it by your wife, but that is a stupid idea.' "

Nevertheless, she was susceptible and he was persistent.  Soon, she said, Ring was regularly bringing home Ecstasy and Valium.  She was hooked again.  Emergency crews were called to their apartment on May 24, 2001, when she overdosed on Valium. 

Ring said he didn't use drugs.  He acknowledged contacting a North Seattle personal trainer named Lynn Higman in the spring of 2001, who he believed was selling Valium and Ecstasy.  He said he learned about her from Lisa Gorrin, an escort-service operator.  He said his only reason for contacting Higman was to assist Edmonds police who were investigating a Valium overdose by a stripper who might have known Higman.  Ring told the same Edmonds police story to investigators. 

But no one named Dan Ring ever helped Edmonds police with the case, said Edmonds Detective Dave Honnen, after he had consulted with the officer who worked the case.  Gorrin said Ring later told her that he had given the drugs to Taylor. 

Higman told the P-I the only reason Ring sought her out was to buy Ecstasy. 

The 48-year-old personal trainer said she sold Ecstasy to Ring six times in the late spring and early summer of 2001.  She said the largest transaction was for $400.  The vehicle he was driving matched the description of his sheriff's car. 

The drug buyer identified himself as "George" ( which is Ring's real first name ), she said, and he was a "smooth talker" who "said he was a photographer."

When investigators showed her a photo montage, she picked out Dan Ring. 

Higman said two different women were with "George" during a couple of the transactions.  One was a "shifty-eyed" woman named "Sarah," whom she identified from photos as Janine Taylor.  Another was a "jittery woman," whom Higman picked out of a photo montage as Rebecca Rose, who currently lives with Ring.  Rose declined to comment. 

Higman and Taylor described the first drug transaction identically.  Taylor said she and Ring parked the car in the Lake City area, and Taylor walked up to Higman to arrange the purchase. 

Ring acknowledged that phone records showed around two dozen calls were made from a Sheriff's Office cell phone carried by Ring to Higman during the time of the alleged drug transactions.  Ring said he didn't make the calls, except for the initial one, and speculated that maybe Taylor was using his phone.  Taylor said the phone was always in Ring's sheriff's car. 

Higman was reluctant to talk about drug transactions.  She said she doesn't use drugs herself, especially Ecstasy, but doesn't object to others doing so, as long as they are not officers who are supposed to act in the public trust. 

"I have never used Ecstasy," Ring said. 

Higman told part of her story to a Sheriff's Office internal investigator, Sgt.  Patrick Raftis, who found her in October 2001.  That was the first time she identified Ring in a photo montage, she said.  Raftis was working on the first internal investigation, the one started by Taylor, which was closed without action.  Raftis could not be reached for comment. 

Higman said she told her story again to FBI agent Gary Pilawski and SPD Sgt.  Mike Hay after they tracked her down again in May 2003.  She said they eventually made her feel comfortable enough to talk fully about every transaction.  She gave another statement to Pilawski in January 2004.  Higman told the P-I Ring hinted at more than an interest in Ecstasy. 

"He was trying to get more than that," she said.  "After he started to know me, after he made a trip to Las Vegas, I believe, he asked me: 'Do you know where I can get 'go-fast?' "

Higman said Ring may have been referring to either cocaine or methamphetamine.  She said she had no interest in obtaining those kinds of drugs. 

When Taylor told Sheriff's Office investigators about Ring's drug purchases, she said she had mixed feelings.  She didn't want him to lose his job.  In fact, she was willing to go back to him if someone could get him straightened out, she said. 

A Strange Phone Call

Higman knew nothing about Taylor's report to internal affairs, but she said she got a strange cell phone call on a date that would have been just days later. 

Higman was driving to Sandpoint, Idaho, where she was planning to live for a while, helping a friend sell a house.  She was outside Moses Lake, accompanied by another woman, when the phone rang and on the line was a woman whose voice sounded like "the jittery one," the woman who had accompanied Ring on a couple of the drug buys. 

"I know you are a good person," the voice said.  "Someone might be out to hurt you."

Higman said investigators traced the call to a fast-food restaurant in the Tacoma area, but could not identify the caller. 

"When she said there was somebody after me, instantly I knew it was him," Higman said.  "Yeah, that scared me."

The Las Vegas trip Ring mentioned to Higman might have been Taylor's 30th birthday celebration in June 2001.  The trip was a drug-soaked disaster, Taylor said, and led to their final breakup. 

Before the Vegas trip, Rebecca Rose had entered Taylor's life at Ring's insistence.  Ring told Taylor that Rose had briefly worked for and testified against Taylor's madam in the Eurosport bust in 1992, a fact that was confirmed by court records.  Taylor didn't want to deal with Rose out of loyalty to her former madam, but Ring insisted. 

First Rose and her husband, John Finsterbusch, showed up at a favorite neighborhood bar in Seattle, and soon they were regularly at the apartment she shared with Ring.  Taylor especially didn't want them accompanying her to her birthday celebration in Vegas, but they showed up anyway. 

One night at the casino-hotel where they were staying, Taylor said she felt the effects of Ecstasy.  Ring had given it to her frequently by then, but this dose took her by surprise.  The drug made her feel very friendly, even toward Rose, she said. 

And there must have been something else in her system, she said, because she passed out and woke up in a hotel room, nude, with Ring and Rose, who also were unclothed. 

"There was a digital camera on the nightstand," Taylor said, and she recognized it as a Sheriff's Office camera Ring often used. 

"I quietly picked it up, and looked at the pictures," she said.  They were photos, she said, of her having sex with Ring and Rose.  Very graphic. 

Taylor said it was more than a year before she could use the word "rape" to describe the experience, and she could do so only after seeing a therapist.  She would later tell investigators she felt violated.  The investigators would never find the most graphic pictures, though there were others of the Las Vegas trip.  Pictures were missing from the numbered sequence. 

Rose declined to comment.  Her ex-husband could not be reached. 

"I've read the rape allegations in Vegas," Ring said, referring to investigators' reports that were obtained by his attorney.  "There's a thread of truth in every story." But then he added, "I never had sex with anyone on that trip."

Taylor said she decided to end the marriage in August 2001 after Ring asked her to have three-way sex with the couple again, and with a prostitute in Canada.  She was terrified about using drugs again, and she no longer recognized the man she had lived with for so long and had married. 

"While I was coming from a dark place moving towards lightness, he was moving toward darkness.  When we ended the marriage, he had completely evolved into everything I was trying to get away from," she said. 

Taylor was well aware of the tools that Ring, as an intelligence detective in the Sheriff's Office, had at his disposal to find her. 

But she was unaware that someone else had reported him, and that new investigators had entered the scene, ones who would like to talk to her and to help her. 

They would soon gather evidence from Ring's computer showing how vigorously he was hunting her. 

Among the tools he used was a law enforcement version of Accurint, a powerful, privately owned database service used by many law enforcement agencies that provides a person's name, date of birth, Social Security number and extensive background information.  Between Jan.  8, 2003, and Jan.  13, 2004, Ring made 1,008 information requests with Accurint, and of those more than 520 inquiries were related to finding Janine Taylor, including searches for her, her family, relatives, friends and ex-boyfriends, according to court records. 

Ring also made 18 checks on Taylor and her associates on an even more powerful and exclusive police tool known as WACIC and NCIC.  Operated by the Washington State Patrol and federal law enforcement agencies, these databases are restricted to police personnel. 

Using such tools to track his ex-wife, Ring found Taylor had made a credit purchase in Nevada -- at Victoria's Secret -- and noted it in his Outlook file in his computer. 

Ring also tracked down people he believed were somehow connected to Taylor.  For instance, he ran the names of several people in Southern California who she worked with on a photo shoot as a makeup artist.  He even got a detective in Ohio to drive by a house where he wrongly believed Taylor was living in August 2003. 

Ring said he called the Ohio cop only to ask for a personal favor.  But Eaton police Detective Jeff Cotner told King County Internal Investigations Capt.  Webster that Ring's request was characterized as department business. 

Ring doesn't dispute trying to find Taylor, but says he was only trying to return her belongings, which he said were in the garage of his Des Moines home.  A reporter asked Ring why he didn't simply mail the stuff to Taylor's parents -- as she said she had instructed him to do long ago -- or why he didn't ask for an address when she telephoned him once after the break-up. 

Ring replied: "Well, yeah, and there's that."

As Taylor went underground, she used the lessons Ring had taught her.  She recalled him explaining that if you want to disappear, don't apply for credit, or regular jobs, or sign leases.  She did none of the above, and frequently changed addresses and cell phone numbers.  She hid so well it took the FBI nine months to find her. 

"I do believe that he works with ...  criminal intent, that he is fully conscious of right and wrong, and he chooses to do wrong," Taylor said.  "He believes he can get away with it."

Some say he did just that. 

After a 3 1/2-year investigation, and just days before trial, the Sheriff's Office let Ring retire and the prosecutor dropped all charges against him.  He has been paid, without working, since his arrest in January 2004, and feels that's proof he was hounded by an unnecessary investigation. 

"You guys are paying my wages right now," he said.  "And you will be paying them until the end of November 2005."


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