Thursday, March 12, 1998 | 10:20 a.m.
Las Vegas entrepreneur Michael Maunu, marketer of the Original Laundry Clean Ring, has escaped a legal ringer with a stern warning from Justice Court Judge Doug Smith.
"I think Mr. Maunu is pretty smart to surround himself with these fine lawyers," Smith said just before he acquitted Maunu on a criminal misdemeanor charge of deceptive trade practice Wednesday. "I also think this Clean Ring is a con ... but I can't convict someone on what I feel. It has to be proven."
After the verdict, an obviously disappointed deputy attorney general Grenville Pridham said he would re-evaluate the case and then decide whether to file other charges against Maunu, who smiled broadly as he left the courtroom, with his arm around his wife.
"I guess you could say we're very happy with the verdict," Maunu said. "If someone wants, I have the scientific documentation that shows that this product works."
While Pridham scoffed at Maunu's evidence as "irrelevant and meaningless," there seemed to be no wrinkles in Maunu's defense team that included attorneys Bill Smith and John Hunt, who argued that Maunu had repeatedly satisfied Pridham's request for evidence that the laundry ring works, and that the state's complaint was out of order because it contained charges that had not been addressed in an earlier letter from the state to Maunu.
"Mr. Pridham requested bits of information from Mr. Maunu and none of these bits of information are referenced in the complaint," Bill Smith had said in an earlier motion for dismissal. "What this means is that the attorney general is asking for evidence of apples, and then charging Mr. Maunu with not providing evidence of oranges. That's it in a nutshell."
Judge Smith did not find the apples and oranges argument palatable and quickly dismissed the motion.
But after hearing testimony Wednesday from lawyers for Maunu about lab reports on the effectiveness of the Original Laundry Clean Ring, Smith acquitted the multi-level marketer after all.
The judge accused Pridham of putting on a wishy-washy prosecution.
Pridham had argued that he had asked Maunu for proof that the product effectively cleans clothing by somehow changing the structure of the wash water, as product advertisements state.
"They cannot substantiate the claim about structured water, although they submitted a bunch of irrelevant and meaningless tests," Pridham said. "It is they who have the burden of proof."
But Judge Smith said it's up to the state to produce an independent expert to testify about the effectiveness of the product.
"We don't have such an expert in the courtroom," Judge Smith said. "We don't have anyone to testify. One person would be enough."
Maunu, who in the late 1980s served nearly 2 1/2 years of a five-year sentence in a Texas penitentiary for securities fraud, today owns Dynamic ONE Worldwide Inc., a Las Vegas company that markets the Original Laundry Clean Ring, which sells for about $70.
The product itself, which is the size and shape of a doughnut and is filled with liquid, is advertised to clean load after load of dirty laundry without detergent. It claims to clean clothes "through the science of quantum physics."
But critics charge that it's the magic of multi-level marketing that sells the Original Laundry Clean Ring, rather than the effectiveness of the product.
"It has practically no value whatsoever beyond increasing the agitation of the water," said Las Vegas account executive Bonnie Rattner, who purchased a ring several months ago.