Judge puts alleged madam on home detention, says she’s done dealing with the ‘prurient’ question

Next time, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez says, she’ll just put Jessica Nesbitt behind bars.

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Jessica Nesbitt, accused of running a brothel on the West Side under the name “Madame Priscilla Belle,” is shown leaving the Dirksen Federal Building.

Jessica Nesbitt, accused of running a brothel on the West Side under the name “Madame Priscilla Belle,” is shown leaving the Dirksen Federal Building after a court hearing last year.

Sun-Times file photo

The woman accused of running a high-end brothel on the West Side clearly didn’t have a “sewing circle” in mind when she posted an ad seeking “fetish friendly staff” on sexyjobs.com, a federal judge said Wednesday. 

In fact, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez ruled Wednesday that Jessica Nesbitt, also known as Madame Priscilla Belle, violated Valdez’s previous order that Nesbitt avoid prurient activities while awaiting trial for crimes revolving around her business, Kink Extraordinaires.

But after peppering Nesbitt’s lawyers with questions about Nesbitt’s conduct — and repeatedly reminding them she told Nesbitt to “get a different line of work” — Valdez put Nesbitt on home detention and told her to come back to court in March. Clearly agitated, she said Nesbitt can’t even leave her home to go work out. 

“You have to get a treadmill,” Valdez said. 

Prosecutors hit Nesbitt in September with a 13-count indictment alleging crimes revolving around Kink Extraordinaires, which has been described as “the premier Dungeon of Chicago.” Its website said it offered “beautiful, psychologically sophisticated Kinksters” who “play out of a private five-floor dungeon with multiple, fully equipped themed rooms.”

Nesbitt’s lawyer, Barry Sheppard, has said “there’s absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, that my client engaged in any acts of prostitution.” He has argued since Nesbitt’s indictment that “fetish-based eroticism is not unlawful.”

Still, prosecutors last week asked U.S. District Judge Robert Dow to revoke Nesbitt’s bond and lock her up, arguing a job ad they’d discovered in December on sexyjobs.com for a business called The Premier Playhouse of Chicago violated Valdez’s previous order, because it appeared to have been posted by Nesbitt.

Dow later referred the issue back to Valdez. 

Sheppard told Valdez that Nesbitt had hoped to “derive passive income” from the Kink Extraordinaires building in the 2400 block of West Augusta. His partner, Adam Sheppard, explained in a court filing last week that Nesbitt hoped to rent out the building for “pole fitness” showcases, recently described by the New York Times as a “hybrid of art, sport, exotic dance and fitness craze.” 

Barry Sheppard described it Wednesday to Valdez as “aerial fitness” — and he told the judge Nesbitt has won awards in the field. He insisted to the judge — even when she reminded him of his role as an officer of the court — that Nesbitt was seeking a different line of work when the ad was posted online. 

“One man’s prurient could be another man’s traditional,” Sheppard said.

He also said Nesbitt had sought to become a real estate agent.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Devlin Su told the judge Nesbitt was simply “scrambling” to explain her conduct after she’d been caught. He asked the judge to put Nesbitt behind bars, and he noted in a court filing last week that the language in the sexyjobs.com ad matched descriptions of Kink Extraordinaires. 

“We need charming, classy individuals who love the spotlight and who can welcome curious newcomers and seasoned Kinksters to our incredible and luxurious five-floor playhouse,” the ad reads. “We need staff to monitor events and parties, give guided tours, manage KinkBNB room rentals, teach kinky group classes and more. Apply today!”

Su said the ad had last been updated from an account registered to Nesbitt, the billing address matched the Kink Extraordinaires building, and a related phone number had previously been used by Nesbitt. The IP address used to access the account was also registered to a Comcast account connected to Nesbitt. 

He alleged Nesbitt had sought to restart Kink Extraordinaires under a new name. 

Before Wednesday’s hearing ended, Valdez told the lawyers she was done dealing with the question of whether Nesbitt’s conduct falls into the “prurient” activities” category she’d told Nesbitt to stay away from. Next time, she said, she’ll simply put Nesbitt behind bars.

“I’ve been as clear as I can,” the judge said.

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