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Originally published February 5, 2010 at 7:39 PM | Page modified February 5, 2010 at 8:50 PM

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Magician, pageant runner-up battle on in court

The decision by federal prosecutors not to charge David Copperfield, and the recent prostitution charges filed against the young woman who accused him of rape, have not ended the celebrity magician's legal challenges as evidenced by recent acrimonious legal filings.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The decision by federal prosecutors not to charge David Copperfield, and the recent prostitution charges filed against the young woman who accused him of rape, have not ended the celebrity magician's legal challenges, as evidenced by recent acrimonious legal filings.

Hundreds of pages of pleadings filed in the past two weeks by attorneys for Copperfield and Lacey Carroll, the 23-year-old woman who accused him of rape, bristle with accusations of complicity and dirty-dealing, and that's on an issue both sides essentially agree on: that a court-ordered stay on a civil lawsuit filed by Carroll be lifted.

The civil case was stayed while the criminal case was pending.

Carroll has asked U.S. District Judge John Coughenour to issue an order preventing the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI from returning to Copperfield documents and other items seized during searches at his home, warehouse and theater in Las Vegas as part of the now-closed criminal case. She's also seeking testimony, reports and other documents accumulated during a two-year grand-jury investigation into her claim that Copperfield lured her to his private Caribbean island and then raped her in 2007.

Federal prosecutors informed the judge in the civil case last month that the criminal investigation had concluded without charges.

Copperfield's attorneys argue that the order is premature and that the return of the property is unrelated to the civil lawsuit.

If Copperfield gets that material back, wrote Carroll's attorney, Rebecca Roe, then it might be too difficult and expensive to retrieve through the civil discovery process.

"There is cause for concern that if documents and tangible things are returned, they could be relocated to [Copperfield's] private island residence in the Bahamas," she wrote.

"More worrisome, a party who regains custody of materials that were seized in 2007 may inappropriately damage or destroy" them, she wrote.

The court filings indicate that Carroll — the first runner-up in the 2010 Miss Washington USA pageant last October — will vigorously fight misdemeanor charges filed in January in Bellevue alleging she went to a hotel room with a Bellevue businessman and then asked him for $2,000 to have sex. When he refused, according to police reports, Carroll went to the lobby and told staff that she may have been molested.

Carroll claimed she was in a blackout until she awoke to find the man on top of her. The man said the woman had met him at a bar, was sexually aggressive and agreed to go to the hotel with him.

The Seattle Times has not identified the 31-year-old man because he is the alleged victim of a crime.

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A breath test taken two hours after the incident showed Carroll's blood-alcohol level to be .14 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for intoxication.

Roe suggests detectives in Bellevue ignored witness statements that supported Carroll's story, and she referred to a sworn declaration she obtained from Dr. Michael Hlastala, professor emeritus of physiology at the University of Washington, who postulated that Carroll's blood-alcohol level could have been as high as .21 percent at the time of the alleged incident.

Police documents also showed the detective, Jerry Johnson, called one of Copperfield's attorneys about the arrest, Roe said. It's not clear why.

Another declaration by Dr. Naomi Sugar, the medical director of the Harborview Sexual Assault and Trauma Center, says research has shown that alcohol can cause memory blackouts at levels of .15-.25 percent.

Moreover, Roe raises questions about the 31-year-old man. The accuser, Roe claims, is an "unknown quantity" who began frequenting the restaurant where Carroll worked about the same time she was hired late last year. His "appearance at Ms. Carroll's workplace may not be coincidence," she said.

Copperfield's attorney, Angelo Calfo, has said Carroll's arrest proves she's a gold-digger and he's upset that the government won't admit it.

"The court should lift the stay," Calfo wrote. "Copperfield wants this litigation to proceed to expose Carroll's lawsuit for what it is — a fraudulent effort to obtain money."

Calfo suggests collusion between Carroll's attorney, Roe, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Roe (no relation). Rebecca Roe is the former supervisor of the King County prosecutor's Special Assault Unit (SAU), and Susan Roe used to work for her.

Calfo, a former federal prosecutor, believes Rebecca Roe sent Carroll to Susan Roe hoping that a federal prosecution would help her civil claim. Now, he said, even without criminal charges being filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office is still favoring Carroll's case, perhaps to help Carroll obtain the investigative documents she's asked for.

Calfo's primary complaint is that the federal prosecutors have refused to acknowledge that Carroll's arrest in Bellevue played any role in their decision not to charge Copperfield. Moreover, Susan Roe has said in writing that the reason the case did not proceed was jurisdictional — that "federal statutes did not apply to the facts," not that Copperfield had been exonerated.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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