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[00:00:00]

Hi, this is Hillary Clinton, host of the new podcast, You and Me both, there's a lot to be anxious and worried about right now, and it's made so much worse by the fact that we can't be together. So I find myself on the phone a lot, talking with friends, experts, really anyone who can help make some sense of these challenging times. These conversations have been a lifeline for me.

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And now I hope they will be for you to please listen to you and me both on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. This is Rocket Inside the Gold Club. I'm Christine Ali. This is episode for the Magnificent Seven.

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The Gold Club employees knew they were being watched across the street from the club was a big Kaplan's right hand man ciggie noticed one of the bank's cameras was turned suspiciously toward the club.

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He asked owner Steve Kaplan what should they do about it? But Kaplan wasn't worried. Ziggy suggested he plant some trees out front to obscure the view just in case Jakim, Bush or Devah swore someone was following her.

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But it was the raid in March nineteen ninety nine when they knew for sure who had eyes on them.

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And no, it wasn't the mob. It was a more threatening force to Kaplan, the FBI. After the raid, Kaplan knew he had to protect himself and his employees, so he sought out the most prominent criminal defense team he could find.

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You guys need to call me more often. I don't get any fucking phone calls. And then as soon as we get on this, I felt like eight phone calls and that's one of them. It's probably people selling me insurance.

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But OK, so we're in the middle of a pandemic.

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And we started interviewing people for this podcast right when everything started shutting down, which meant that we couldn't interview anyone in person, even though we all live in Atlanta.

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So there was this learning curve with some of Atlanta's most coveted and accomplished lawyers on how to record their side of the interview on their iPhones. I'm hitting it.

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This is new recording three, by the way. OK, all right. Don't go back. Don't go. Don't go back. Don't go back. I can't repeat it. I can't do it. It's already done.

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That was our producers talking with attorney Bruce Harvey, who ends up representing Jaclyn.

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What was your initial impression of Jaclyn? Can you tell us a little bit about her now?

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Jackie was their premier dancer, their premier seller, and she was very close to Steve Kaplan. So my first impression was, well, she must be something. She must be something. This is a very famous national club. People come from all over the country to see the club and to see Jackie Bush.

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Can you tell us about the first time that you met Jacqueline? No, because I don't remember.

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OK, so I'm I'm assuming it was at the Gold Club. Of course, I had never been in there before because I would never go into an establishment like that. But due to my professional responsibilities, of course, I wanted to go.

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Oh, are you saying that with a hint of sarcasm?

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I hope you could hear that hint of sarcasm in my voice. Jacqueline didn't like the first attorney her boss recommended because, quote, he talked to me like I was guilty already answer Bruce Harvey. Jacqueline recognized Harvey not just from his signature ponytail, but she knew of him from other major trials he had worked on.

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And Harvey was just one of the seven defense attorneys.

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One journalist referenced a classic Western when she dubbed them the Magnificent Seven. OK, so let's let's get started. So will you please tell me your name and who you represent in the Gold Club trial?

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My name is Steve Sadow and I represented Steve Kaplan.

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Attorney Steve Sayda was at the helm of the defense team. Sadow was already a reputable criminal defense attorney in Atlanta, but Sayda wasn't Kaplan's first choice for representation.

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The night the FBI raided the Gold Club, Sadow headed straight over. I kept my eye on the FBI and the IRS as they did the search. I got to know a little bit about the club's operations and I figured that this was going to lead into the biggest case that I ever had. And I was thrilled. And then I waited for Steve Kaplan to let me know that I was going to lead the charge in defending his club and himself.

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Then came some bad news. Kaplin already had his choice of attorneys big wigs from his native New York to be told thereafter.

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I could kind of stick around as the local representative, but I really wasn't going to be a participant. Obviously, I was somewhat devastated, but I knew I was still involved in the case.

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But Kaplan chewed up or chewed out those bigwigs and it'd be on to the next one.

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This happened three times and said I was kept on the sidelines.

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So for the next several months, I was relegated to the what's the best way to say it? The total lackey. You know, you need to go pick up dinner. If he were here, I went to get dinner. I was at the role that I would never want to play, but I didn't want to lose contact with the case. That changed when Kaplin saw Seydel working the Ray Lewis murder trial. On January 31st, two thousand Joseph Sweeting, Reginald Oakley and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis were charged with two stabbing murders the morning after Atlanta hosted Super Bowl 30 for Lewis, Sweeting and Oakley, where at the Cobalt Lounge, another nightlife fixture.

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And as they were leaving the club, they were confronted by a group of men.

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Words were exchanged. There was a fight and two people died. But Lewis and his entourage fled the scene in their limo. Sadow represented Lewis's friend, Joseph Sweeting. This was a big celebrity trial, and Kaplan and some of the other Gold Club employees went to see how Sarah would handle it.

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Let's just say that I was having one of my best performances, at least in the courtroom.

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The jury acquitted say it was client after only 45 minutes of deliberation. Steve Cappell was impressed, so they finally had a meeting.

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Steve comes to me in the office. He says, hey, I don't want these New York lawyers anymore. How much more money do you want to just run the whole show?

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And I said, finally, the real work was about to begin. Sayda reunited with Bruce Harvey, who represented Oakley and would now take on Jacklin. Don Samuel, who represented Lewis, would be assigned to Kaplan's accountant, Larry Glik. The rest of the team were attorneys Craig Gillen, Dwight Thomas, Nicole Tito and another Bruce Bruce Morris.

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But first, the Ray Lewis jury reached a verdict not guilty on all counts. Just celebrate their victory in the Ray Lewis trial, Sadow and Harvey took their clients on a limo ride to the Gold Club. We'll be right back. This is Bethenny Frankel, and I'm here to tell you about my new podcast, just be on just before I will talk to some of the most incredible self-made business people in the world, such as Mark Cuban, Gary Vaynerchuk, and two entertainment powerhouses like Andy Cohen and Paris Hilton.

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This is a show about how to be successful. I rant about Cardi B's music, crazy stories about my wildest walk of shame ever, and a lot more. Listen to just be on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

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When the indictment came down in November nineteen ninety nine, the first task at hand was keeping the Gold Club open since Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell wanted to take away its liquor license that fell into the hands of Arlen Specter, the Gold Club's lawyer, who told us about how the musical hair led to the rise of Atlanta's asshole naked strip clubs.

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When the indictment came down and Bill Campbell was mayor and he used for the first time the emergency powers in the city of Atlanta's alcohol code to revoke their license without a hearing, without due process, without appeal.

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Beckner suggests that this was a political move on Campbell's part because Campbell was about to be federally indicted as well for racketeering, wire fraud and bribery, including from strip clubs. He'd eventually spend a year in prison for tax evasion.

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He knew he was going to be indicted and that another adult club owner who testified that he gave bribes to Mayor Campbell and wanted to show he was tough on new dance clubs, Beggars Move worked, which meant that from nineteen ninety nine to twenty one, it was business as usual apical club.

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So Beckner isn't one of the Magnificent Seven. He was the Go Club's regular civil suit lawyer handling those run of the mill credit card fraud cases from the 90s.

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Degner is also a strip club regular. In his office, he proudly displays a wooden bat that someone used to attack a security guard at Tattletale, his favorite strip club in Atlanta.

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Tattletale is a decisively, more casual place than the Gold Club, though Beckner has also been to the Gold Club plenty of times for work and pleasure.

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Meanwhile, most of the Magnificent Seven claimed that the only been to the Gold Club strictly on business when we won the Ray Lewis trial.

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My client had been incarcerated since the day of his arrest in January of 2000, and he's found not guilty. We celebrate at the Gold Club.

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That was literally the first time I had ever gone to the Gold Club, other than as potential counsel for the Gold Club, like the Gold Club's defense team, prosecutor Art Leach swears that he's never stepped inside the Gold Club, not even during his own investigation.

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I just said never going to Daqing that door ever.

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And we we had some intelligence that came back to us through the FBI where they were actually searching the tapes to see if I had ever been at the Gold Club. But they were wasting their time because I had never cross that threshold ever.

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Still, after the raid, legis investigation overtook business as usual at the Gold Club. The staff was being interviewed by FBI agents and getting subpoenaed left and right. So Capelet asked out if he could come by the club to give some reassurance.

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Everyone realizes that at some point maybe this is going to be the end of the club, the entertainers are concerned because that's their livelihood. The club shuts down. You know, they're out of a job. And I don't know what you've been told, but the entertainers, the dancers at the club made serious money, really serious money. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

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So Steve comes up to me one point and says, you know, if you could come by the club every once in a while, some of the girls have got club questions.

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Maybe you can answer some of the questions, make everybody feel good that things are still moving along in the right direction.

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Say it all started regularly going to the club, usually staying for a half hour. And to show his propriety, he often brought his wife with him.

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She had always been interested to know what went on in there. She's heard stories. So we would go into the club. We would never go to the private room. We would sit up on the second floor in the balcony that overlooks the stage. And I would sit there with her and we would wait to see if girls came over and they wanted to ask questions and they would come over, they would ask a couple of questions. And they always felt because of who I was in the role I had, that maybe I should have a lap dance.

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Naturally, these entertainers wanted to show their appreciation. They would say, you know, would you like lap dance? And I would always look at my wife and she'd give me that look like that ain't happening.

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Capone was pretty involved in building up his case. He was always coming up with ideas.

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So while the government could subpoena people for grand jury, Capone wondered if there was a way that defense could collect their own testimony.

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Steve comes to me and he says, you know, the government takes people. Can we take people and I said, yes, actually, and Steve said, well, if we can tape, what are your thoughts? And I said, Well, you know who who's going to who's going to do this taping?

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Kaplan realized that while he didn't have cameras and wiretaps, he did have the power of seduction on a side.

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And he said, the girl. And I said. Girls, he said, yeah, the entertainers, the dancers, the people that I've been loyal to on are loyal to me, they all come to me and say, how can they help?

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And this is what they could do. And it occurred to me immediately upon him saying that the individuals being recorded and having the conversation would be their most open. They wouldn't be guarded because they think they're impressing the woman they're talking to.

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Men's ego would take hold of the situation. Patrons were more than willing to sing Kaplan's praises when being interviewed by the entertainers with a sexy sleuth in action. The defense ended up with more than 300 hours of recordings.

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During the grand jury investigation, as LIJ continued to collect evidence, the indictment was revised two more times. The first version was already 100 pages long, but the third and final version had 30 more pages of charges.

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As we talked about on the last episode, the overwhelming charge in the indictment was RICO to be charged under RICO. At least two separate crimes need to be proven in legal terms. These crimes are called a predicate acts. For example, the indictment accused Kaplan of bribing Delta Airlines employees with booze and entertainers in exchange for discounted airfare to anywhere he chose.

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During the grand jury, an L.A. drug dealers said that he sold drugs to Zigi and some gold club managers. He said that he had the bathroom valets selling his goods and collected the earnings at the end of every night. He guessed that 60 percent of whoever was inside the Gold Club at any given time were on some kind of drugs, mostly cocaine.

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The grand jury does permit hearsay. So take all this with a grain of salt. But for the Gold Glove defense, the scope of the trial was becoming so immense that many of those predicate acts became footnotes.

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Story of reginal, Berney also got overlooked, even though he was one of the seven defendants going to trial, Bernie was a retired Atlanta police officer who pivoted to working as a security guard and club consultant.

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Since he worked in permits while at the police department, he was well versed in what strip clubs could and could not do.

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Sometimes at the Gold Club's weekly meetings, Bernie was there. He would tell staff that everyone, including bouncers, needed a permit to work at the club.

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It's all entertainers to please stop engaging in lewd behavior. In Atlanta, while you can be asshole naked, you cannot be lewd, like intentionally spreading your cheeks.

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Just to give an example.

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Government allege that before Berney retired, he accepted a five thousand dollar bribe from Kaplin to get the Gold Club a Sunday liquor license, Eila Kaplin know if his office was going to pay the Gold Club a surprise visit.

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And like the rest of the defendants, Bernie was charged under Rico, meaning he was somehow helping Kaplan funnel money to the mob.

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Gold Club frequently called birdies drinks as restaurants and convenience stores often do with policemen and firefighters. But the indictment points to this gesture almost as if it were another bribe, if not some sign that Bernie was being offered sex as well. Bernie's lawyer, Dwight Thomas, figured that the government threw him into the mix just to make this whole case even sexier.

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You've got a dirty cop that you're throwing into the salad. What you're trying to do is give us some local flavor so people just have a bad taste in the mouth. So I don't want this. You know, I'm going to convict simply because the government says they got a dirty cop in this situation.

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A police officer has that badge on his sworn to uphold protect the law, is involved in criminal activity with the mob. That's even you know, that's even sexier for the prosecutors to present to the people.

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Yeah, dirty cops, along with bribery and drugs, were the least of the concerns.

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We'll be right back. Like most things in the world, the Gold Club case boils down to money where it came from, how it was used and where it ended up. And grand jury testimony, some staff and even former owner John Kirkendall complained about the Gold Club's cash flow. According to Kirkendall, once Kaplan took over the club, he stopped making daily deposits at the bank and started paying staff and vendors under the table. During a visit to Atlanta, Kirkendall stopped by the Gold Club for Kaplin to literally hand them a brown paper bag with about eight thousand dollars in bills.

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Apparently, this was his cut for the week at the club. Kirkendall swears that Cap and once told him that he'd rather pay people with cash to avoid being taxed. He also said that Kaplan supplied the Gold Club with bootleg liquor, most states require getting alcohol from an authorized distributor, but Kirkendall claim that Kaplan got his bottles delivered in some unmarked van Kirkendall said the stuff you read about and see in movies was happening to me at the Gold Club.

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I'm telling you, it was right out of a fiction movie or a novel. Attorney Don Samuel, who is defending accountant Larry White, says that a cash problem at the Gold Club wasn't possible. Where would all this cash come from if the Gold Club's clientele were platinum card holders? Larry, Glad had nothing to do with cash, and in fact, I'm not aware that there was substantial cash at the Gold Club at all. It was that was not that kind of club.

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This was not the kind of club where people came and bought drinks with 20 dollar bills. This was the kind of club where people came in and bought drinks with the platinum Amex cards.

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Like, sometimes tips would be paid in cash from the club if if the entertainers wanted that or cocktail waitresses wanted to be paid in cash, but there just wasn't enough cash really to pay the employees like that. That was just mythical.

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Speaking of platinum cards, Samuel pointed out that only 18 people were included in the indictment for credit card fraud at the Gold Club, and since thousands of people have visited the club on a yearly basis, the charge of credit card fraud seemed overblown, more like a mistake than a scheme.

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Also, prosecution described Kaplan's upselling strategy. Remember what they called the formula as part of a larger scale.

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Samuel struggled to see which parts of the formula were actually illegal. A lot of people got very drunk there. A lot of people, you know, one or two in the morning, they're on their third bottle of champagne. You know, they're signing everything, they're signing anything, and they're just buying more and more booze. And there's more and more girls coming up. You know, I guess you could say they were being taken advantage of, but they were willingly spending their money.

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And I'm not sure that's a crime just by taking advantage of incredibly wealthy people who are incredibly drunk and spending a lot of money.

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And, you know, it's one thing, you know, at the you know, to take advantage of someone who's spending their last but, you know, gambling and clearly doesn't have the money to go home and feed their family that night. It's another thing, you know, to, you know, someone who's walking around with a platinum Amex card and wining and dining his customers to encourage them to keep eating, keep eating, keep drinking, keep drinking, buy another steak, buy another Dom Perignon.

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It's not you know, I see that as being morally different and certainly not crossing the line of illegality.

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The government also accused Steve Kaplan of arranging sex between Gold Club dancers and VIP clientele, and according to prosecution, this was prostitution. Prosecutor Art Leach needed to prove that money changed hands with either the entertainer's or Kaplan himself for sex. Meanwhile, Sayto asked whether sex as defined by the state of Georgia actually happened.

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Seydel found a loophole in Leach's case. Keep in mind that the year before the raid, the nation was trying to figure out what exactly happened between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

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Clinton said, I did not have sexual relations with that woman. But the longer the impeachment trial wore on, the more the court, legal experts and the general public debated over whether oral sex actually counts as sex as we are preparing.

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I kept saying over and over that it was oral sex that people were talking about, not sexual intercourse. And I hate to go to Bill Clinton, but there is a difference. So I went in to see what constituted prostitution under Georgia law. Now, the statue said it had to be sexual intercourse, if you read the law in Georgia, clear as day at that point, it said sexual intercourse. That means all the times the indictment references, blowjobs, hand jobs or lesbian sex shows is prostitution.

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That can't be because is defined by the law. Prostitution can only be intercourse.

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The law has changed since then, and even at the time of the Gold Club case, that was confusing.

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Sadow did find some cases that had previously ruled oral sex is prostitution, but he decided some willful ignorance might be better than admitting that fact into evidence because some things are just better held back.

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The defense team had one last big problem, what to do with Michael Di Leonardo, otherwise known as Mickey Scar's alleged mobster.

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Michael was a very strong willed individual and at that time was alleged to be a high ranking member of an organized crime family and was not used to receiving directions, and that it was important to make sure that Michael was kind of kept under some control because he was a bigger than life character.

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And if he was too big, it might give the wrong impression in a courtroom about who was controlling who.

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Like how reginal Bernie was added to the indictment, Seydel thought that organized crime was thrown in to make the case more exciting and that these charges were an overreach by the government. The government had overreached.

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They had created criminal activity when none existed.

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They had particularly when it came to organized crime. They had put that into it because, oh, my God, organized crime has come to RiverCity, which is the old song had come to Atlanta and we had to get rid of him.

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Suddenly, the prosecution was framing Leonardo as the top of the Gold Club's money chain. But the defense team needed to prove that Kaplan was running the ship so no Mafia involvement did. Leonardo wasn't named a defendant in the Gold Club trial until the third draft in the indictment. He was then accused of money laundering, obstruction of justice and extorting the New York strip club scores during the 90s.

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The third draft is also when everything about scores came to light in the grand jury, or at least talked to scores to owners about Steve Kaplan.

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They said that they had connected with Kaplan through Gambino associates. At first, Kaplin was just offering them business advice, like every time a cab dropped someone off at scores, they should tip them five bucks that way.

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The cab driver will recommend scores to people looking for a good time, but then their meetings escalated. Kaplan told them they should build private VIP rooms, get the customers super drunk and get them to the rooms where they could do whatever they wanted with the entertainers and get charged for it.

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At the time of their meetings, the scores owners were wearing wires because they were working with the FBI. And in a conversation captured between Kaplan and the score zoners, it became clear why Jacklin Bush was so taken aback by how Kaplan talks, according to the transcript.

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Kaplan says any fucking guy wants any bitch wants a fucking floorman to sit down. I don't give a fuck. Go in there. Fuck. The defense refers to the Gold Club trial again and again as a morality play or a moral prosecution against this booming strip club below the Bible Belt.

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It was an empty wagon. It made a lot of noise. This is Dwight Thomas again.

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And he points out that a lot of the case was now built around what had happened in New York with scores and all that, but says it was a deliberate choice to bring the case into the South because southerners, well, aren't supposed to like strip clubs, the government in L.A. and the prosecution, that they could have brought this case up in New York, but they didn't want to do that because they felt No.

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One, New Yorkers are too liberal about things and they would never buy that idea. So they brought it south thinking that they can make a morality prosecution, that the southerners here would get caught up in Christian hangups and say, hey, you know, this is dirty dancing. You know, this is loonies. This is immoral. You know, at some point, people got to realize a civil war is over.

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In September 2000, Kaputt almost got rearrested. He'd been out on bail, but police wanted to throw him in jail on allegations of witness intimidation.

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This isn't the only time that prosecution suspected Kaplan of messing with their witnesses, Leach said a former Gold Club employee was later attacked.

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They beat her so severely that basically all of her front teeth were knocked out in an effort to intimidate her and it worked. I mean, we lost her for a long period of time to say six months where we could not find her, could not communicate with her. We were concerned for her physical safety, in other words, was she's still alive. And when we finally found her, it was a really horrible situation.

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Art Leach believes the attacker was hired by none other than Steve Kaplan.

[00:30:43]

Next time on Rocket, you was brought down here to help manage the club and did so, he had insight into all manner, every aspect.

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He was a coward, no backbone at all.

[00:30:57]

I can't stand the thought of that man. There were several different instances where things happened, where he felt like he was in immediate bodily harm her. I can say she was just scared. She's terrified.

[00:31:13]

It's it's very, very difficult, if not impossible, for people to resist the siren call of the government when they are pressuring you to cooperate.

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A wreck in a wreck. Oh, my. Walking a red red. Oh, my. Racket inside the Gold Club is a production of School of Humans and I Heart Radio Racket's written and narrated by Christina Lee and produced by Gaby Watts. Carolyn Slaughter is our supervising producer.

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Special thanks to Taylor Church and Sunim Bashi music is by Claire Campbell and sound design and mixes by tune welders. Executive producers are Brandon Barr, Elsie Crowley and Brian Levin, along with Scott Grubman and Lord Zimmerman.

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Oh, oh. Oh. School of Humans. This is Bethenny Frankel, and I'm here to tell you about my new podcast, just be on just before I will talk to some of the most incredible self-made business people in the world, such as Mark Cuban, Gary Vaynerchuk, and to entertainment powerhouses like Andy Cohen and Paris Hilton. This is a show about how to be successful. I rant about Cardi B's music, crazy stories about my wildest walk of shame ever, and a lot more.

[00:33:30]

Listen to just be on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.