Daily Herald
Case of missing girl leads to felony drug conviction
By Erin Holmes | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/14/2007 11:16 AM

A case that began with a report of a missing girl was partially wrapped up Thursday with a felony drug conviction for a Palatine man accused of running an escort service and, at times, paying his women with cocaine.

A four-man, eight-woman jury took 90 minutes to find 35-year-old Michael Spencer, of 568 S. Oak St., guilty of possessing and intending to deliver the drug. The conviction could send him to prison for as many as 30 years.

Spencer showed no visible emotion when the verdict was read. No friends or family were in the courtroom.

He still faces other unresolved charges of pandering and money laundering in connection with the case.

Authorities arrested Spencer in January 2006, after Rolling Meadows officers on the hunt for a missing teen pulled him over and found a safe -- packed with wads of cash, contracts relating to his escort business and nine bags containing cocaine, witnesses said -- in his trunk.

About $19,000 in cash bundles was in the safe, prosecutors said. Another $8,000 was in Spencer's pockets, and nearly 19 grams of cocaine was found in the bags.

The 17-year-old girl, who'd been missing since October 2005, also was found about a week later, prosecutors said. They say she was among the girls Spencer was employing as part of his escort service.

"I'm pleased that they found the missing girl," Assistant State's Attorney Shari Chandra said after the verdict was announced Thursday.

Helen Tsimouris, an assistant public defender on Spencer's case, said she was disappointed in the verdict.

In her closing arguments, she told jurors enough questions remained to raise plenty of reasonable doubt about whether Spencer is guilty.

"There are questions," she said. "Lots and lots of questions. … Things are not always as they first appear."

Among other things, she asked why police didn't test for fingerprints on the scale in Spencer's trunk; whether the scale authorities used to weigh the cocaine was accurate; and why her client would have voluntarily talked about his escort business, as prosecutors said he did, after refusing to sign the form that would waive Miranda rights.

In his closing message to jurors, Assistant State's Attorney Matt Fakhoury called Spencer a savvy businessman who had proudly spilled the beans about his escort service to police, telling them the money they had found was from the proceeds and saying he sometimes had given cocaine to his employed girls "so they don't get lost."

Spencer is being held without bond in Cook County jail. He's set to be back in court Jan. 15 for sentencing. His other cases also will be addressed then, attorneys said.