A Delaware County Common Pleas Court jury will continue deliberations today in the trial of three persons accused of human trafficking in central Ohio.
The jury began deliberating late Friday afternoon but did not reach a verdict, according to a source close to the trial.
Today will be the 10th day of the trial of three Mandarin Chinese-speaking people — Qing Xu, 57, and her husband, Xiaoshaung Chao, 57, both of Columbus, and Qing’s sister, Estella Xu, 55, of Pomona, California — who are accused of human trafficking and promoting prostitution at three massage parlors they operated in central Ohio. One was in Powell.
The prosecution and the defense both rested Thursday and closing arguments took up most of Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
The trial has moved slowly since it began Aug. 11. Interpreters have been needed to translate testimony for the three defendants, who do not speak English, and for six women who worked at the massage parlors. Visiting Judge Timothy Campbell, who is presiding over the case, has had to stop proceedings frequently to remind attorneys or witnesses to slow down for the interpreters.
Prosecutors have alleged that workers at the massage parlors were victims of human trafficking because many of them asked to leave and were told they had to wait until replacements could come.
Defense attorneys have said that the women came willingly — and legally — to the massage parlors, got to keep money they earned, had cellphones and Internet access, and could leave whenever they wanted.
Defense attorneys have also said the prosecution put itself in a corner when it contacted the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and spent hundred of hours and many resources on what they thought was “the tip of the iceberg” of a human trafficking ring — when, in reality, the case was much smaller and did not constitute human trafficking. They have said that prosecutors gave immunity to the workers and clients in exchange for their testimony.
Qing Xu, Xiaoshaung Chao and Estella Xu are each charged with:
• Behaving in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony, with a specification that the defendant knowingly committed crimes that furthered human trafficking.
• Eight counts of promoting prostitution, a fourth-degree felony, also with an added specification for human trafficking. Authorities have alleged that the women working at the massage parlors were providing sexual services for male clients.
• Three counts of money laundering, a third-degree felony.
Qing Xu and Estella Xu are also charged with three counts of practicing medicine — massages — without a license, a fifth-degree felony.
The jury is comprised of seven women and five men.
The massage parlors were shut down by authorities during a raid in January.