A Fowler, Calif., priest said two brothers who own a strip club may have committed sins, but he does not believe they are criminals, even though the pair pleaded guilty to charges of turning the exotic dancers who work at their club into prostitutes.
The Catholic priest, Father Joaquin Arriaga, is calling for the resignation of Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan and an assistant district attorney, Roger Wilson, following the sentencing Wednesday of the two brothers on charges of pandering and conspiracy.
Andre and Alon Ramirez agreed to a plea deal, but Arriaga, who says he knows the men well from his church, said he believes the brothers were set up and are being made to serve time for crimes they did not commit.
"I believe the brothers are innocent," said Arriaga, a priest at St. Lucy's Catholic Church. "And therefore, I really ask for the resignation of Mr. Roger Wilson and Mrs. Egan."
The priest said he believes real criminals are the officers who performed the sting on the brothers, who are scripture readers and parishioners at Arriaga's church.
The undercover officers went too far in allowing the exotic dancers to perform moves on them before the bust, Arriaga said.
"I think the sex offenders are not Andre and Alon Ramirez, but Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Egan, who covered up for police officers who were committed lewd acts and robbery acts while they were performing their services," Arriaga said.
Sheriff's deputies found the Ramirez brothers, who owned and operated the business, Extreme Fetish, acted inappropriately by taking money from the dancers.
Investigators also found several dancers were performing sex acts during and after shows.
Andre Ramirez spoke out in court Wednesday, when he and his brother were sentenced.
"I hope to see maybe the district attorney will prosecute certain officers for engaging in illegal conduct with some of the dancers, because I feel it's inappropriate on taxpayers money for cops to engage in this type of activity with the girls," he said.
Andre Ramirez was sentenced to four years in prison, and his brother Alon got four months in jail.
On April 15, the two admitted that they recruited young women at local shopping centers, talking them into taking jobs as exotic dancers and then turning them into prostitutes.
As part of the plea agreement, Andre pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering and Alon pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
"Part of the reason Andre entered the plea, he kind of sacrificed himself in his own mind for his brother in trying to protect him," said Andre Ramirez's attorney, Jim Elia.
Had they been found guilty of the original charges, the brothers could have faced more than 60 years in prison.
As court wrapped up after the brother had been sentenced Wednesday, Andre Ramirez took off his shirt, revealing an undershirt with a message for prosecutor Roger Wilson: "Roll the videotape Wilson. The truth can set me free."
He was handcuffed and taken away. Elia said he had no idea about his client's plans to take off his shirt.
As for the sentence, Elia felt based on the circumstances in the case, the sentence was a bit harsh.