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[00:00:00]

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

[00:00:33]

This is Rocket Inside the Gold Club. I'm Christina Lee. This is Episode seven, War Trial.

[00:00:47]

Every day after the trial proceedings wrapped up, the Gold Club defendants headed from the courtroom to Steve Kaplan's house to decompress from the hours of testimony. Entertainer Jaclyn Bush was tired of hearing testimony bashing her all day.

[00:01:03]

When you're sitting there every day and each person that comes on the stand is telling another lie or another story about one of your colleagues and you guys are all looking at each other like, are you kidding me? What is this? So at the end of the day, you're so taxed, so maxed out. We get to the house and everybody would have to have a cocktail and just try to to unwind. Then we'd have to watch the news because we'd want to see how they aired the interviews that they were doing.

[00:01:33]

And to you know, it just it was so overwhelming. It was just too much. One day I Kaplan's jacket went outside to smoke a cigarette and she said she saw FBI Agent Mark Suel filming the house with a camcorder. And then we had the FBI parked on the other side of the cul de sac. Every time we're coming in and out there at the back of their truck taking pictures of us and it just you had no privacy. You had no you had nothing.

[00:02:03]

Your life was their life. And no matter what you did, you were always being watched. And it's just an uncomfortable, eerie feeling to know that your every step that you're making, someone is watching you. Everybody was scared because we were afraid that we are all going to prison. Get to the courtroom audience of reporters.

[00:02:29]

Steve Kaplan seemed pretty cool and collected during the trial. Kaplan and his attorney, Steve Seydel, decided that Kaplan would not testify. His silence was intriguing. Scott Henry was one of the journalists in the courtroom and he really didn't know what to make of Kaplan. For most people, I think watching the following the trial, Kaplan himself was a bit of a mystery. He never took the stand and he didn't give interviews outside the courthouse, of course. So one side of Kaplan you had to get from people who worked there, one guy who seemed definitely to be pretty close, talked about Steve like he was just the the greatest guy salt of the Earth.

[00:03:19]

And then you read these transcripts where he's he sounds like a ruthless businessman and just not not a very nice guy.

[00:03:33]

It's very difficult to to from the outside to have a great idea about what he was really like.

[00:03:47]

Attorney Craig Gillen noticed, though, that by comparison, all the defendants were pretty paranoid.

[00:03:53]

During a defense team huddle in the conference room at the courthouse, the defendants looked for bugs.

[00:03:59]

A lot of the defendants were all worried about whether or not the government was wiretapping the conference room, which they were looking under the table, looking in the air conditioning system.

[00:04:10]

Meanwhile, Kathleen wanted to discuss Guillen's game plan for his client, alleged mobster Michael to Leonardo Kalonzo. Nina, I need to talk to you like, OK. No, no, not here. So we go out in the hallway. What is it? I'm not I'm not comfortable here in the hallway. Right. Then we go into the core variable in there, which is sort of this little small room, almost closet between the hallway and the inner courtroom.

[00:04:37]

Same thing. And it's too important. I can't can't tell you here. So then we walk into the courtroom. Everybody is gone for the day.

[00:04:47]

We walk over to the podium, Caplin starts giving Guillen a pep talk and Calvin goes tomorrow. I really want you to jump on this guy. I want you to really cross-examine him on what you're really, you know, and there's some some expletive deleted flying around there. And I'm trying to say to Steve, and he goes on for about ten or fifteen seconds and I say, congratulations. You have now walked me to the only live mic in this floor because that mic is broadcast back into the judge's chambers.

[00:05:19]

It was pretty funny.

[00:05:22]

The name of this episode is War Trials, because that's what Guillen called the Gold Club case. He says that while every trial can get emotionally fraught, the Gold Club was particularly intense.

[00:05:35]

Every trial has a temperature of its own. Every trial has an emotional energy of its own. Now, this case, because it got the publicity, because there were a lot of the major forces here, the government throwing its entire the weight of the government into this case and the strength of the defense team, given also the interest of the public. That created in my mind what I call a war trial. The stakes are higher, the focus is more intense, and everybody is in there.

[00:06:14]

And you can just feel the energy in the courtroom. That was especially true when the former Gold Club employees who had become government witnesses took the stand.

[00:06:27]

Thomas, the Chinato took the stand early in the trial in June, but his testimony became the longest dragging on for seven days. During his opening statement, prosecutor Art Leach made sure to spell out Ziggy's name twice so that the jurors would remember him. After all, he was the government's star witness, Leach Zygi, about his youth basketball program, Brooklyn USA, establishing to the jury that he is the sort of man who could be trusted with kids.

[00:07:02]

But then Leach went over all the charges against Kaplan from loansharking in Florida to extorting scores to the fact that Kaplan would take care of his girls so that they'd have sex with athletes.

[00:07:18]

Zigi name dropped athletes left and right, adding much to the zeal of the trial. Since no one knew yet which players would be called to testify in federal cases, cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom. Get the courtroom state packed with all the anticipation over who would eventually take the stand. And the courtroom wasn't that big. So as Zygi spilled the beans on what was going on at the Gold Club, he was sitting just a few feet away from Kaplan and the rest of the defendants.

[00:07:54]

Even though Zygi was testifying against Kaplin, he couldn't help but boast about his friend's business savvy. At one point, he compares Kaplan's work ethic to that of Michael Jordan's any detours and these long winded press conference type speeches about Kaplin.

[00:08:12]

Ironically, Zygi emphasized what made the Gold Club work was teamwork.

[00:08:20]

Over the next five days that Ziggy was on the stand, the defense's cross-examination zeroed in on his hypocrisy, that while he's out and Kathleen on all these crimes, Zygi seemed just as complicit.

[00:08:33]

Bruce Harvey representing Jacklin, has made the courtroom see zigi for who he really was with his flair for the dramatic.

[00:08:41]

Harvey wrote the word pimp on a flip chart and showed it to the court. I did I remember crossing him for over a day, and I think that my theme was that he he zigi was nothing but a snitch, a pimp snitch. Harvey's point was that Zygi had also arranged sex for celebrities at hotel rooms, like when a busload of Gold Club entertainers went to Charleston, South Carolina, to entertain the New York Knicks.

[00:09:13]

My cross was designed to get him to a point where the only logical conclusion was that he was a pimp, which I wanted to get to for the jury. And that was after, I think, a day. A day over a day of cross. Ziggy disagreed with Harvey, of course. He said Steve did the direction, I did the execution.

[00:09:43]

Sarah was the last attorney to cross-examine Ziggy, so he had already observed Ziggy's fondness for tangents like that one time when he was broke without a car and living in his mother's attic, blah, blah, blah, he saw how Harvey had to reprimand Ziggy to stop interrupting him. Harvey said at one point. May I finish my question?

[00:10:04]

Please say house plan. Let the star witness talk. When I finally got up to cross examine, as you can imagine, everyone had been ready for that. They knew who he was. They knew, obviously, that I was the person that would attack. At least that's what they thought. And as I'm watching him, I'm saying there is no reason to attack him. This man can't keep his mouth shut. You can't get him to answer a question.

[00:10:34]

And there's nothing that's more frustrating to a jury than being than a witness being asked a direct question. And not getting an answer. Say, figured that Ziggy would bore the jury to death. So I ask a question. He starts talking and I said, you know, why don't I just sit down and do this? So I go back to my chair at the table, away from the podium, and I sit. And when he's done talking, I stand up and I say, anything else you'd like to say about that question?

[00:11:06]

And I'd ask the question again. And he'd start talking and I'd go sit and I'd stand up when he was done and I'd ask another question. And now the jury is getting upset at this point.

[00:11:18]

Ziggy is even annoying Judge Hunt. He keeps looking at his watch before he calls a recess out of frustration.

[00:11:28]

And at that point, nobody cared. Whatever he had said, it didn't mean anything anymore because people were so tired of the manner he was testifying as opposed to what was coming out of his mouth.

[00:11:40]

One legal expert and observer said that by the end of the cross-examination, Ziggy kept dabbing his glistening forehead with a towel and, quote, looked like a wounded animal.

[00:11:52]

His testimony was a total wash. All the defendants, former co-workers and friends were taking the stand.

[00:12:08]

Amanda Pappas, also Jaclyn's ex, says that Jaclyn had shown her the ropes of the rooms, how to sneak around and have sex with customers for money.

[00:12:18]

One night, Jacqueline invited her upstairs to meet Dennis Rodman, where Rodman handed her a fistful of gold bucks and started taking off her shirt during this part of the trial. Journalist Scott Henry was taken aback by some of the testimony that came from the witness stand.

[00:12:35]

So the Gold Club trial was unique because you'd you'd get these episodes of sleaziness. For instance, they had a young stripper on the stage. This girl and a friend of hers would go down to the to local cell phone store and basically pay their cell phone bill with blowjobs every couple of weeks. The prosecution's other star witness was entertainer Janet Polynice, known as Frederik at the club. She testified that Kappen paid her to perform sexual acts on athletes to campaign Mutombo and Terrell Davis.

[00:13:13]

She also said that Jackson was prostituting herself and others, both inside and outside the Gold Club. But Yoni's testimony was also falling flat.

[00:13:23]

She said that while, yes, she'd get reimbursed, quote, I was never commanded or told to do anything by Mr. Kaplan.

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He would encourage it. When I examined her instead of attacking, I said so. As far as you're concerned, Steve Kaplan was a voyeur. He was just in there for his own personal pleasure.

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And she goes, absolutely, that's exactly what it was. He wasn't in there, had anything to do with the club. It was personal pleasure for Steve Kaplan.

[00:13:51]

And the jurors looked at her like you're making this story up.

[00:13:55]

Not another person has said this. This is disgusting. And, you know, the only reason you're saying this is the government has told you to say it.

[00:14:04]

It was just it was a shit show. It was embarrassing for her. And the jurors would look over at me and just shake their heads and go shrug their shoulders like, what the hell is she saying? Like what? What is wrong with this girl? She's just being proven a liar. So now your testimony is null and void by next.

[00:14:24]

Jacqueline was particularly irate during his testimony and kept rolling her eyes and Jaclyn's direction.

[00:14:31]

She got so mad at one point that she motormouth. And looked at me and said, fuck you. She was so pissed. I'm like, are you kidding me?

[00:14:44]

We'll be right back. 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.

[00:15:17]

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. It's late July and journalist Bill Rankin was shot to enter the courtroom and see one of his favorite baseball players.

[00:15:42]

I was stunned when I walked in the courtroom. Mean, I was kind of late and I walked in and Andrew Johns was sitting on the witness stand and I was like, oh, my God.

[00:15:50]

One of my favorite baseball players of all time, Atlanta Braves outfielder Andrew Jones was there to testify about a night where a golf club, limo wisdom to a hotel room and two entertainers performed some girl on girl action before turning their attention to him.

[00:16:08]

If anybody looks at baseball in those Braves in the 1990s and with Andrew Johns, the center field, he's a cocky guy and he always had this nice grin, kind of a shit eating grin. And when the prosecutor asked you, did you have sex with you yet? That little grin and he just said both of them. That was quite a moment. And then he said after that, he went about 30 times to the club. I guess he enjoyed it.

[00:16:34]

He was only 19 at the time. Jones was among several well-known athletes who testified about sexual favors either performed or arranged by the Gold Club to implicate Steve Kaplan as the leader of a prostitution ring.

[00:16:50]

Yet while Jones didn't mind recounting his exploits, he swore that he never saw money change hands. And the allegation was, of course, that Steve Kaplan was having women paid to have sex with him, and this is defense attorney Bruce Morris.

[00:17:06]

When we asked Andrew Johns about that, he started laughing and said no one has ever had to be paid to have sex with me. I have to beat him off with a stick. Eventually, Patrick Ewing himself took the stand, and while Ziggy's testimony was seven days, Patrick Ewing was only twenty five minutes.

[00:17:28]

The New York Knicks player had been to the Gold Club twice during the ninety six Olympics. And a year or so later, he says that both times Kaplan and Ziggy insisted on treating him to drinks a private room and sexual favors from entertainers.

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He swears that he didn't seek this out or pay anyone to do anything.

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So, like Andrew Jones, you explicitly says he only received blowjobs and he's never had to pay for them.

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Remember, Sayto had found that technically under Georgia law, prostitution can only be defined as intercourse.

[00:18:15]

That's why, even throughout Ziggy's direct testimony, Sadow kept objecting to Leech's vague allusions to sexual activity.

[00:18:23]

This sexual activity included hand jobs, blow jobs, lesbian sex shows, but technically, none of that qualifies as prostitution.

[00:18:33]

Attorney Bruce Harvey, remember Judge Willis Hunt's constant interruptions in the courtroom during all the blowjob testimony? Well, as we turn to the jury and say, remember, ladies and gentlemen, oral sex is not prostitution, so you can't consider this testimony to be part of a predicate act. So it it became a study in oral sex as opposed to prostitution.

[00:19:08]

Meanwhile, no one could agree on why these celebrity athletes had to testify in the first place. In his opening statement, defense attorney Dwight Thomas even asked why only black athletes were being called to the stand. He said, quote, There are some questions that are going to be raised during the course of this trial. Some things that maybe people don't like to touch on, kind of sensitive. We think that we've come a long way. And yes, we have, but we still haven't arrived.

[00:19:37]

You were told during the opening statements about a couple of athletes and you saw pictures of them and you saw their color. Terrell Davis, Patrick Ewing. These are not the only people that came to the Gold Club. But then Leach had a word with the judge. He said, council has spent much of this time making arguments that are totally inappropriate before this jury. He, meaning Thomas, is about to launch into a racial argument. I move the court to advise this jury that the arguments that are beyond his reference to what he expects to prove is inappropriate at this time.

[00:20:16]

I said there were a lot of white celebrities who were not being brought in to trial and subjected to all of that. And they were just bringing in Patrick Ewing and then various other people. They were thinking about calling. And I thought that that might have some racial component to it. That was some things that were going on that I felt that crossed the line and in Port of call it. But what I saw, you know, was call balls and strikes as they are later in the trial, one athlete ended up suing Ziggy Ziggy claiming claimed that Antonio Davis of the Indiana Pacers so kaplin up on an offer to have sex with an entertainer.

[00:20:59]

Ziggy stuck to his story even after Davis sued him 50 million dollars.

[00:21:05]

Apparently, Ziggy had mistaken Antonio for his teammate Dale Davis. And it wasn't just the athletes who were mad about their names being brought up during this high profile trial.

[00:21:23]

Partway through Roy Dracoulis, attorney Nick Latigo got a call.

[00:21:29]

You know, I got a call that the king of Sweden was going to sue me for slander or something, which was kind of funny. In his opening statement, Lotito mentioned that Secret Service agents once accompanying Carl the 16th, Gustaaf, to one of the gold rooms.

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That ignited a wave of interest from the Swedish press and to Swedish newspaper people came and covered the trial for the rest of the time there. Initially, I got the call from somebody connected with the king of Sweden that they were thinking about filing a lawsuit against me that never materialized. But as we were leaving court that day, I said to somebody and Bill Rankin, who covered the case, was was close by and he heard me say, I'm not trying to start a war with Sweden.

[00:22:19]

I love blonde's. I knew they were going to kill him. Please help me. This is Fight Night, a new podcast from My Heart Radio. This is the story about two guys from opposite sides of the street, a hustler blamed for robbing the most dangerous gangsters in the country. This is like issued a death warrant for me, for somebody that I don't even think about.

[00:22:45]

And the cop who tried to save his life, they thought he had robbed the deadliest man in this country, guys who would not hesitate to blow your head off. In 1970, Muhammad Ali triumphantly returned to the ring at the hustler's party that followed. Gangsters from around the country were robbed of a million dollars.

[00:23:02]

This story from Atlanta, Georgia, has been reported for 50 years. But now, for the first time, you're going to hear what really happened from the people who lived to fight.

[00:23:13]

Night premieres on October twenty sixth. Listen and follow on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Well, Kaplan was accused of funneling Gold Club profits to the mob. Much of the trial ends up revolving around claims of credit card fraud and trying to distinguish credit card fraud from buyer's remorse. Leach brought in several men who said they lost their families and their lives were ruined after the Gold Club screw them over by tens of thousands of dollars.

[00:23:50]

One said that in October nineteen ninety nine a night out at the Gold Club until Fauria left him with a bill of over thirteen thousand dollars. He summed up the night by saying, I had a good time and I was stupid. Another had somehow missed all the zeros and his ten thousand dollar bill before he signed the credit card slip. He insisted that even after having eight Crown and Cokes and three hours, he was sober, calling himself a big boy.

[00:24:23]

And that is how A said that he asked Manager Roy Jicarilla to remove one hundred dollar tip off of the thousand dollar membership fee. But then he asked to have the whole bill voided. When he realized that champagne wasn't even included in the cost, they ended up settling for two hundred and fifty dollars, the cost of a single hour in a gold room. All this wouldn't have happened, he said. If a Gold Club staffer didn't imply that he'd get some action if he signed up.

[00:25:03]

Leads develop this theory during the trial. If someone did partake in sexual favors at the club, they weren't going to complain about their bill. But if they didn't get some action and their card was charged, they would. Those people never defrauded. In other words, there's not fraud on their credit card. There they are agreeing to pay that. They're just agreeing to pay that for sex. OK, then there's the other category, which is people that are simply victimized in terms of credit card fraud.

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And it took me a while to understand that the two never mixed. In other words, you are never going to have a credit card fraud person over here that is participating in sexual activity, because when you see that somebody has paid 25000 dollars.

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The natural conclusion is what did he get for twenty five thousand dollars, you know, it just it doesn't make sense to me that that can be anything but some sort of sexual liaison. Andre, the regular and the first episode who was there the night of the raid, the guy who liked to spray down the entertainers with champagne, he was one of the government witnesses.

[00:26:22]

He admittedly had sex with a club, oral sex and intercourse. He never accused the club of fraud. He also admits he might have been overcharged a few times. During the trial, did you agree with any of the charges or did you have any impression that anything they were charging with them was true?

[00:26:47]

At that point in time, I was advised by my attorney just to get out of this, that you just lost. We did say that I was overcharged, but we didn't go through and find tune home everything. They won't give me back my money, so why go through I go through the embarrassment. I mean, look at Ashley, over one hundred and seventy thousand dollars in six months. At the bottom of the house with. You remember back in into it?

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I didn't know I was even close to that.

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I didn't know. I don't know if you want to talk about this, about prostitution. I can say that I'll say I'll say this. There was no prostitution, ethical. The act of six. Sometimes it happens. No, I there was there was there was no money exchange for any sexual activity. It's the best way I could put. By the dog days of summer, journalist Bill Rankin noticed that Judge Hunt was getting impatient. Other journalists were predicting that the trial could drag into November.

[00:28:22]

It's my understanding that Judge Hunt, he was kind of frustrated that thinking how long it was taking, that the prosecution was overly ambitious and the case was kind of convoluted. Here's the prosecutor, Art Leach. The media aspect of it doesn't bother me.

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And, you know, you just do your job day to day. And, you know, you know, I was accustomed to long trials. I enjoy long trials.

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You know, all of these defense lawyers or people that I have dealt with many, many, many, many times over the course of the years. And they are consummate professionals.

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And, you know, obviously they are trying to get the information out that will help their clients and so forth. I mean, you know, they know I'm trying to get all the evidence I can and that hurts their client and will lead to a conviction. And that's just the nature of the beast. A trial can end a few ways, both sides can present all the evidence and give it to the jury to decide, or the defendants can take a plea in collaboration with the prosecution or like in this case, the judge can call for reinforcements.

[00:29:36]

Hearsay. Again. Or at least appears to be oblivious to the fact that he's getting beaten around the head. It's like a drunken punter, boxer or someone who's just been hit around the head so many times, he doesn't realize anymore.

[00:29:50]

He's just getting the s kicked out all of a sudden.

[00:29:55]

A former prosecutor involved in the case by the name of Janice Gordon, all of a sudden she's back in the case, but she's back in the case because she has been told by the U.S. attorney that the government is not doing well and there would be nothing worse than the government losing this case across the board.

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They ask her to get involved to find out if there's a way to work out a plea. Everyone was tired, no matter what, this trial had to end, and that meant somebody had to go to prison.

[00:30:54]

On the next and final episode of Racket. So this thing wrapped up in 2001 and then 9/11 happened, the entertainers were all being fired, they were all losing their jobs.

[00:31:08]

So it was really kind of sad.

[00:31:09]

And a lot of ways, half of the guys from the trial were hanging out at the smoothy cash.

[00:31:17]

I said, yeah, three million, give or take in cash.

[00:31:22]

I looked at them. I said, I'm doing fine. How are you? Don't choke on your steak. You know, when she said, hey, we should why don't you check into the Gold Club and I said, right? And, you know, you could call God's club and say, you've got to be kidding.

[00:31:47]

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

[00:32:26]

Special thanks to Taylor Church and Sona Vashi 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.

[00:32:48]

O oh oh. School of Humans. What's up? I am machine gun Kelly, and look, I know Halloween is going to suck this year because there's no trick or treating and all that, but I've got a treat. There's a musical podcast that I made with my friends. Twenty four K Golden NDR and day to day today and say. Well, Satan is not my friend, but Tommy Lee is, and Tommy Lee is playing Satan, but don't just take it from me.

[00:33:33]

Tell him Satan. Thanks dude. It feels great to be playing Satan on this podcast and listen to Halloween and hell on Iroha Radiolab with podcast or whatever you get your podcasts on.