A former state court law clerk admitted Thursday that he drove a prostitute to Ashland, Ky., in his motor home in 2005, and agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation of the nationwide fraternal order that was meeting there at the time.
Michael R. Stebick, 60, pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy count alleging he transported the unnamed woman across state lines for prostitution, a violation of the Mann Act. During the appearance in U.S. District Court, Stebick said he will cooperate with the probe of the Royal Order of Jesters, of which he is a member.
If he does, he will face a reduced sentence of up to 10 months in prison and a fine of as much as $30,000, instead of the maximum five years and $250,000 set out in federal guidelines, Judge William M. Skretny said. Sentencing was set for Sept. 9.
As part of the deal, Stebick forfeited to the government the motor home used to transport the woman, whom authorities say was an illegal alien working as a prostitute in a Wheatfield "acupressure" parlor.
The felony plea could mean disbarment for the veteran lawyer, though defense attorneys Joel L. Daniels and Andrew C. LoTempio, say they hope Stebick's law license will simply be suspended.
Daniels said their client "was a small player" in the alleged conspiracy. "He had no contact at all with the young lady. He didn't know her."
Stebick was the second former public official to take a plea in the Jesters investigation. Retired Lockport Police Capt. John Trowbridge pleaded to a felony in March and is cooperating with federal agents while awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors allege Trowbridge picked up the prostitute in North Tonawanda and drove her to Hamburg for the motor home trip to Kentucky.
Court papers in Trowbridge's case stated that a former state judge and a lawyer joined him on the Kentucky road trip. Although the judge and lawyer were not named in the documents, sources identified them as retired State Supreme Court Justice Ronald H. Tills and Stebick, his former law clerk.
The Jesters investigation is a spinoff of a series of arrests made last year in local massage parlors where illegal aliens were allegedly employed as prostitutes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati handled the Stebick plea.