Arizona high priestess guilty of ‘sexual healing’

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PHOENIX – A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found the leader of the Phoenix Goddess Temple guilty of all 22 criminal charges against her after a brief deliberation Wednesday.

Tracy Elise was found guilty on charges including conspiracy to commit illegal enterprise, illegal control of an enterprise, operating or maintaining a house of prostitution, multiple counts of money laundering and multiple counts of pandering.

After the jury read the verdict late Wednesday afternoon, Elise remained composed. “I never thought it would be like this,” she said.

She hugged her son and daughter before she was handcuffed and taken into custody.

Her sentencing date was set for April 8.

Phoenix police raided the Goddess Temple in 2011 after a grand jury indicted several members on charges of illegal control of enterprise, maintaining a house of prostitution and receiving the earnings of a prostitute.

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Wednesday was the 48th day in court in Elise’s trial, which had begun in early November. Final arguments in the long-running case concluded shortly before noon.

During the court proceedings, Elise wore a floor-length fuchsia dress with a printed fuchsia shawl, a silver scarf and silver ballet slippers.

Edward Leiter, deputy county attorney, wore a dark suit.

Before Leiter began addressing the jury in his final statements, Elise pulled objects such as sea shells, a sun figure with a mirror in the center, an hourglass filled with orange sand and what looked like tarot cards out of a wicker basket and arranged them on the defense’s desk.

Leiter reiterated the state’s prostitution statute and made a case as to how Elise’s activities violated that statute.

The Phoenix Goddess Temple began operating out of a residence in Scottsdale in 2008 before moving to a new location after neighbors complained and police made inquiries into church activities.

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In his presentation Wednesday, Leiter displayed a PowerPoint presentation listing the ways Elise’s management of the Phoenix Goddess Temple applied to the prostitution statute and implored the jury to “evaluate (Elise’s) credibility.”

Leiter argued that even if the sexual acts performed at the temple were spiritual in nature, the way money was exchanged in those sessions made it a prostitution enterprise. Elise previously testified that all money exchanged came in the form of donations.

Suggested donations — set by temple leadership including Elise — ranged from around $200 to more than $600.

“It wasn’t a donation,” Leiter said. He argued the idea of donations accepted for sessions was made up to “manipulate the system and manipulate you people (the jury).”

In previous testimony, Elise told the court that goddesses did not have to perform an act a seeker requested if she did not want to. Elise said if a goddess did not want to do something, another goddess who was willing would continue the session.

On a projector, Leiter displayed a “mutuality form” submitted as evidence in the case. The form was a list of goddesses and what services they were willing to provide.

“This form shows that this was absolutely a prostitution enterprise,” Leiter said. “If you don’t get what you want, someone else will do it for you.”

“Money being paid is icing on the cake,” he said. “The crime of prostitution has already occurred.”

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  • Prostitution should probably be legalized and regulated carefully in the USA as it is in other countries. American prudishness and religiosity force an impossible, hypocritical situation on everyone.

    Prostitution is a victimless crime in many cases. And though no father wants to see their daughter or son take part in it, we must all grow up and realize many men (and women) will insist on getting this service as well as offer it.
    Society should do what it can to insure these services are conducted as safely as possible.

  • tk in tx

    A victimless crime? Are you kidding? Do a little research into human trafficking. That’s another term for slavery, in case you didn’t know.

  • I understand. But nobody is going to shut down prostitution. It is the oldest profession for a reason.

    I said – REGULATE prostitution. If casinos can regulated we can do the same thing for prostitution. It has worked in some other countries.

    As for slavery and sex trafficking, these are abominations and they need to be shut down. None of the women in this Sex Goddess Brothel were slaves.
    But don’t kid yourself that slave labor is limited to the sex trade. The Asian economies have thrived on all sorts of child slave labor for many years.

  • Jay

    So if a spouse finds about their spouse sleeping with a prostitute and is hurt, devastated and files for a divorce, that’s victimless? Then if they have kids and get divorced destroying the family, that is victimless? If they get STD’s from a prostitute, that is victimless?

  • @Jay,

    “hurt spouse”

    I said prostitution was victimless in “MANY CASES.” I didn’t say, “all”.
    I didn’t say life as a mature grown-up isn’t easy!
    Gamblers and drunks ruin families too. But we tried prohibition and it failed miserably!
    it is also a fact that most people can handle drinking and gambling without doing any harm to themselves or others.

    Obviously the Catholic church does not allow condoms so if a man gets aids his wife will be next. Most clinics in Africa are Catholic and they don’t care how much a woman begs for condoms. She won’t get them!

    25 Million people died of AIDS in Africa because of exactly that reason!
    (“Aids is bad but condoms are worse” – Pope John Paul)
    I find it alarming a Christian would start caring about spouses now.

  • Ben in oakland

    So you’re blaming the prostitute rather than the actual responsible person.

    For a married adulterous fornicator, it doesn’t matter whether he– and it’s usually a he– is sexing a prostitute or friend or a pickup from the local bar.. The spouse is still hurt, and it has nothing to do with prostitution.

    Legalize it, License it, regulate it, and tax it.

    Then you can spend your crime fighting resources on actual crimes.

  • Mark J

    Tracy has a different view on sex and it is one of teaching men to honor women and how energy in the body can be used for intimacy etc. It may not be for everyone yet she does not view sex for prostitution
    She views all intimacy as sacred and healing and was trying to help men and women connect -ironically her tantric beliefs are against prostitution
    SO did she set up a temple to hide in and be a madam of prostitutes?
    Or is she someone who should be entitled to have faith how she chooses if she is NOT harming children
    Rapists, murderers and child molesters walk free and Maricopa spends tons of time and money on this harmless woman -because she was willing to FIGHT for her beliefs and wanted to PROVE she was innocent of the crimes they projected onto her beliefs
    Yet in the end they threw her into prison and she was unable to defend her faith as religion was not allowed during her trial for a defense
    The prosecutors were determined to annihilate her -so she sits in prison…

  • Jay

    The state with the lowest level of sex trafficking, STD transmission by prostitute and violence against prostitutes is Nevada, where it is legal and regulated. Men who wish to be unfaithful to their spouses don’t need prostitutes to do so. So all the “There are victims” arguments can be done away with by legalizing and regulating prostitution. We have seen the same reality in states and countries that have legalized marijuana and recreational drugs.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Human trafficking =/= prostitution.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Your retort here assumes a lot of things. Perhaps if you’d step outside the bubble, you’d see jealousy and such are not mandatory. Your response is nothing but a series of invalid slippery slope fantasies.

  • Marvin G.

    When I get that feeling, I need…..

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