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Affidavits tie Price to sex, money

By TINA A. BROWN, ERIC M. WEISS and LIZABETH HALL
The Hartford Courant
August 3, 2000
Web posted at: 2:46 PM EDT (1846 GMT)

In this story:

A call for help

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HARTFORD, Connecticut (The Hartford Courant) -- The Rev. Henry Price used his appetite for sex and his connections as a prison counselor to lure drug-addicted prostitutes to work for him as their pimp at a massage parlor, on the streets of Hartford and from their homes, according to affidavits released Wednesday.

The allegations in two arrest warrant affidavits ordered released by a Superior Court judge portray a minister who solicited sex from prostitutes citywide in the wee hours, and provided them with money and transportation to buy drugs to support their habits.

In all, eight admitted prostitutes, some who ended up working for Price and some who did not, describe a similar pattern. Two of the women, reached separately, confirmed the accounts they gave police.

Michelle Irizarry, 27, was one of the women named in the warrants. In an interview outside her Bloomfield home, she ridiculed Price's image as a reformed convict -- he was released in 1994 after serving 12 years for a murder conviction -- who had become a counselor trying to help.

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"All that is bull----,'' said Irizarry, who indicated she met Price in 1995 when she was in detox at the Blue Ridge program where he was a counselor. "I don't think he wanted to help me. He wanted to help himself by putting me on the street to put money in his pocket.''

The release of the affidavits was ordered by a Superior Court judge on motions submitted by Price and The Courant.

The material in the affidavits, released for the first time since Price's arrest on July 19, lends support to the charges leveled by police against one of their harshest critics. Price has been outspoken in recent years about police treatment of minorities in particular; he led weekly rallies outside police headquarters in the wake of the slaying of a 14-year-old black robbery suspect last year by a white officer.

Price's attorney, Salvatore Bonanno, said Wednesday afternoon he will investigate the facts and the credibility of the witnesses before drawing any conclusions about the case against his client.

"They are of a shady background. They are former admitted prostitutes and junkies, if not current prostitutes and junkies. That's not the most stellar background,'' Bonanno said.

A call for help

According to the affidavits, the police department's fast-moving investigation of Price began on June 28, when Ana Martinez, a counselor at Community Partners in Action where Price worked, reported to police that Maribel Ferrer, a client of the agency, called the agency upset. She was pregnant by Price, she told a counselor, and was being beaten because she refused to get an abortion.

"The Rev. Henry Price was trying to beat the baby out of her,'' Ferrer told the police and the counselor, the affidavit said. Later, when vice and narcotics police interviewed Ferrer, she told them Price had found a job for her in March at the Garden of Eden, a massage parlor in Meriden, and she had to give him most of the money she made, it says.

A month after she had been working for Price, Ferrer sought drug counseling help from Price at the urging Hartford Sgt. Christopher Lyons, after she was found smoking cocaine with a former Hartford Police officer Gregory M. Thompson. Thompson would resign amid the allegations.

Ferrer later recanted her accusations that Price assaulted her or was her pimp, after Price sent a letter to her lawyer threatening to sue Ferrer for slander. But Wednesday, Ferrer stuck to her original story.

During an interview Wednesday at her father's Hartford apartment where she lives, Ferrer described herself as a betrayed lover and as an abused woman.

Ferrer said Price beeped his horn at her one February afternoon while she walking to the store for cigarettes. She said he'd told her he'd noticed her before but hadn't dared stop. She was "drug sick," seeking cash for a heroin fix. So she said she jumped in the car. He paid her $20 and took her to his office in Stowe Village for sex. But Ferrer was too ill to go through to the end, she said, and Price told her to keep the money.

Hearing that he was a drug counselor, Ferrer asked Price to get her into a substance abuse treatment program. First, he arranged for her to General Hospital in New Britain, and then a program run by Mount Sinai Hospital, she said.

When she got out, Price resumed their sexual relationship, and Ferrer said she believed she was his girlfriend.

"He asked me if I wanted to be his girl, and I said `Yes,'" she said.

In the meantime, she said, she began turning tricks, first at a Meriden massage parlor and later on the streets, at his suggestion. She said he told her that if he was to divorce his wife and leave Hartford he needed her make the bucks.

Ferrer said she didn't believe Price loved her, but he took care of her, buying her clothes and sneakers.

"He was a nice guy. He treated me right," she said. But she said she resented his demands and roughness; she accused him of hitting and slapping her when she would refuse to walk the streets for him.

One count of third-degree assault against Price is related to accusations made by Ferrer.

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Wednesday, in a lengthy interview on the porch of her Bloomfield apartment, Irizarry said the police got it all right.

"What I said is true,'' Irizarry said. "He wanted to pimp me. But he never got me. He never got to pimp me. I never gave him the chance.''

She said after meeting Price in 1995, she next saw him in the summer of 1998, when she was working the streets late at night.

Price gave her his card and told her to call if she wanted to get back into a program. She called him three or four days later, and he picked her up on Albany Avenue.

According to Irrizary's affidavit, Price gave her $40 and took her to go buy cocaine. Then he drove her to an East Hartford motel.

During the ride, Price said that she should go into a detox program and when she came out, and if she still wanted to work the streets, she should work for him, her police affidavit said.

He would get her an apartment and buy her clothes and take care of her. All she would have to do in return was give him 75 percent of the money she made, according to the affidavit. After they had sex, Price gave her an additional $10 and drove her to another Hartford drug market, where she bought heroin and took it inside Price's car.

He then dropped her off on Farmington Avenue, and watched as she was picked up by a customer, who paid her $40 for a sex act.

Later, she returned to Price and told him that she only received $20 and gave it to Price, and then left the area, and avoided him.

"I was afraid,'' she said Wednesday. "He never got to hit me. He never got a chance. I said to myself 'Never again,'" meaning she was ending her relationship with Price.

She then spotted Price dropping off three women who she knew were prosititutes.

"I always told people on the street that he was no good - that he was trying to pimp,'' she said in the interview.

This past February, Price spotted Irizarry on Norwich Street and called her names, she said.

He said that she "should have done what he wanted her to do and she would have been straight,'' according to the affidavit.

Now, Irizarry said she wants nothing to do with the streets.

"I'm clean,'' Irizarry said.

Dawn Sukhai, 39, of East Hartford, told police on July 10 she was referred to Price by the prison and she started having sex with him a month after she was released in February 1999, the affidavit said.

A month later Sukhai said she started working as a prostitute for Price at the Meriden massage parlor. He took her to the place the first day and picked her up at 4 a.m., the affidavit said. After she was done, he rented a car so she could get to work. She gave him the $300 she made to pay for the rental car.

Sukhai's roommate, Kecia Goodwin, 34, told police on three separate occasions, Price called the house and told Sukhai he was sending over johns.

"Suhkai was working as a prostitute for the Rev. Henry Price right out of her apartment in East Hartford as well as in Meriden,'' the affidavit says.

Despite the number of women cited in the affidavits, Price still has supporters. Many were in court Wednesday at the hearing where a judge ruled the affidavits should be unsealed.

Hours later, the Rev. Nora Wyatt, a supporter of Price and co-host of a cable access program with him, supported his fellow minister.

"There has to be more than someone just saying something,'' Wyatt said. "There has to be hotel receipts. If you rent someone a car, that doesn't make you a pimp. The Hartford Police Department has more to do than play the innocent role they are playing. It's so polluted.

"(Price) worked with prostitutes. He worked with drug abusers. If that's your job, how do you protect yourself. If I pick you up and drop you off, that doesn't make you a pimp. They are just allegations,'' Wyatt said. "There's got to be something more than people making blanket statements. Where are the johns and where's the money?''



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