Updated 3/10/08 to include Congressman Reynolds' Masonic affiliations
On Thursday, The Burning Taper published an article about, and linked to investigative reporter Sandy Frost's detailed account about, 19 members of the Mason-related Royal Order of Jesters members who have been subpoenaed as witnesses in a federal trial involving underage prostitutes while on a fishing trip to Brazil in 2005.
A comment left by a reader here said, "This has to be an isolated incident."
Sadly, it doesn't appear this kind of activity among the Royal Order of Jesters is an isolated incident.
Synchronistically, on the same day we ran that article two other Jesters, one a retired state judge now serving as a hearings officer, the other his former law clerk, resigned amidst allegations that they, along with a former police captain, took a female massage parlor employee in a motor home to a gathering of members of the Royal Order of Jesters. Transporting a woman across state lines for purposes of prostitution is a violation of the federal Mann Act.
The story ran today on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Buffalo News.
The investigation is part of a probe into Buffalo-area massage parlors linked to prostitution.
Both retired Judge Ronald H. Tills and law clerk Michael Stebick tendered their resignations on Thursday.
Stebick's attorney Andrew C. LoTempio told the Buffalo News, "[Stebick] resigned from his job to save his family and the court system from embarrassment."
Tills had also served as a state assemblyman.
Stebick is a former criminal prosecutor with the Erie County district attorney’s office.
Six witnesses familiar with the investigation said Stebick, the owner of the motor home used on the trip, Tills and retired Lockport, NY Police Capt. John Trowbridge went on the road trip along with as many as nine other Jesters and the woman from the massage parlor. Investigators did not say to where they traveled, other than it was outside New York, or when it occurred, other than it was over a year ago.
The FBI and U.S. Border Patrol have been investigating the local Jesters Buffalo Court No. 22, of which the three are members.
As if to further drive home the fact that this isn't an isolated incident, the Buffalo Times, speaking of a Feb. 1990 federal case in Milwaukee, Wisconsin said:
According to the [Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal] newspaper’s account, a woman admitted to a federal judge that she ran an interstate prostitution business and was hired to provide prostitutes for Jesters conventions in New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and other locations, including some in other countries.Alex Rogers, business manager at the Jesters' Indianapolis headquarters, said, "Our purpose is to spread the gospel of mirth and merriment.... We certainly don't stand for any of that stuff.... Most of our work is charitable in nature, and that's why I just can't believe the nature of this investigation."
The newspaper reported that the woman, speaking at her sentencing, told the judge that "well-to-do businessmen, mayors and aldermen" were among the Jesters' members, and that uniformed police officers sometimes provided security at the events.
The Jesters try to take the "highest caliber Shriners we can get" who distinguish themselves in the community, Rogers said.
"We try to keep the cream of the crop," he said.
When reporters Dan Herbeck and Aaron Besecker of the Buffalo News phoned local Jesters Court No. 22 secretary James Kirst, he hung up the phone when asked about the investigation.
Updated: Monday, March 10, 2008 — The following statement by Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-NY) was read in the House of Representatives and published in the Congressional Record on Dec. 8, 2005:
TRIBUTE TO JUDGE RONALD H. TILLSCongressman Tom Reynolds is a member of Springville Lodge in New York and Ismailia Temple (of Buffalo, NY) of the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the Shriners), according to Congressional SourceWatch and Project VoteSmart. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds should not be confused with M.W. Thomas E. Reynolds, Past Grand Master of Ohio.
HON. THOMAS M. REYNOLDS OF NEW YORK IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Mr. REYNOLDS. Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today to honor a respected jurist, a dedicated public servant, a valued mentor and a trusted friend upon the occasion of his retirement from the New York State Court of Claims.
A native of Hamburg, New York, and a veteran of the United States Army Reserves, Judge Ronald H. Tills began a career in public service that spanned five decades when he joined the Zoning Board of Appeals in 1960. An Assistant Town Attorney and Town Justice, Ron Tills was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1968, where he served his community and his State with distinction, becoming Chairman of the Assembly's Select Committee for Revision of Corporation Law.
It was in his capacity as Member of the State Assembly that Judge Ron Tills took a chance on a young college student with little political experience to help run his re-election campaign in 1972. Joining his Assembly staff following that election, my own career in government and public service was launched, and I will be forever grateful for Ron's guidance, counsel and friendship.
Judge Tills' service to his community culminated when he was nominated by Governor George E. Pataki, and confirmed by the New York State Senate, to the New York State Court of Claims in July of 1995, where he has served as a Court of Claim Judge and Acting Supreme Court Justice for the past decade.
Mr. Speaker, Ron Tills involvement in a variety of civic and community organizations, and the awards and recognitions he has received over the years are too numerous to list. Whether it was the Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Hamburg Volunteer Fire Company, or so many others, Ron Tills involved himself as he did in each endeavor throughout his life and career, with passion, leadership, and commitment.
One of his great loves is the largest and oldest fraternal organization in the world. As a Mason, Ron Tills has held numerous responsibilities within the Masons and the organizations within it, including Proctor of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, Potentate of the Ismalia Shrine Temple, Director and President of the Shrine Oasis and Director of the Buffalo Court 22 of Jesters.
In addition to the Masons, gardening and travel, Ron Tills' greatest love of all is the former Elizabeth Clarkson. Ron and Betty were married on May 6, 1960, and are parents of Thomas and Suzanne and grandparents of Dale Jr. and Diane Goodridge, and Timothy and Abigail Tills.
Mr. Speaker, in recognition of and in gratitude for his service, leadership and patriotism, I ask that this Honorable Body join me in honoring Judge Ronald H. Tills upon the occasion of his retirement, and wish him great health and happiness in the days and years ahead.
Image 1: Retired New York State Supreme Justice Ronald H. Tills
Image 2: T-shirt design available at the Jester Phun Store
Ronald Tills | Michael Stebick | John Trowbridge |Masons | Royal Order of Jesters | Prostitution | Freemasonry | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com