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In the end, Steven E. Kaplan’s decision to stop the federal racketeering trial that targeted him, his staff and his New York friends may have been about “taking the fall.” On Thursday afternoon — after more than a day of legal wrangling — Kaplan pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering and agreed to forfeit the Gold Club and $5 million to the U.S. Justice Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur W. Leach said he will recommend that Kaplan also serve three years in prison in return for his plea. “They have exposure. We have exposure,” says Leach in explaining his decision to offer deals to five Gold Club defendants. Kaplan had faced 22 additional felony charges, including fraud, obstruction of justice, loan sharking, money laundering and facilitating prostitution. If he had been convicted of those counts, he could have been sentenced to serve at least 30 years. But Kaplan won’t testify against any other defendants. “I’m not even looking for it,” says Leach, lead prosecutor in the trial that began April 30. Four other defendants also entered guilty pleas: � Gold Club Chief Financial Officer Larry Gleit pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to maintain proper tax records. � Gold Club dancer Jacklyn E. “Diva” Bush, and club managers Norbert “Norby” Calder and Roy Cicola pleaded guilty to one count each of felony misprision, or failure to report a crime. Federal Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia delayed sentencing indefinitely. Kaplan is the only defendant likely to serve prison time, according to defense attorneys. Leach, who prosecuted Kaplan, says he might attempt to have U.S. marshals seize and close the club immediately. Kaplan’s defense attorney, Steven H. Sadow, says Kaplan has seven days to turn over the club. As Kaplan entered his formal plea, Hunt asked the nightclub owner’s lawyer if he believed the plea was in his best interest. Sadow answered, “It is in his interest and in the interest of others … who have also chosen to plead guilty in this case.” The court reconvenes next week for the trial of two other defendants who remain on trial. They are: New Yorker Michael D. “Mikey Scars” DiLeonardo and former Atlanta police officer Reginald Burney. DiLeonardo, who federal prosecutors claim is a lieutenant of the Gambino crime family, is charged with racketeering, extortion and money laundering. Burney, who worked in the police department’s licensing andpermits division, is charged with police corruption. “In light of the pleas today I feel it necessary to emphasize one point,” said DiLeonardo’s attorney Craig Gillen Thursday afternoon. “Michael DiLeonardo will not plead to any count, any page, any sentence or any word in that indictment. When he was charged, he pled not guilty, and he really meant it. And we look forward to getting back in thecourtroom to conclude this case.” DiLeonardo, who has been staying with Kaplan at the club owner’s Dunwoody, Ga., home during the three-month trial, was roaming the hallways of the courthouse Thursday as attorneys put the finishing touches on the plea agreements. Kaplan, he says, “is 100 percent about self-sacrifice. He’s not concerned about himself.” Instead, DiLeonardo said, the nightclub manager pleaded guilty because the fates of 13 other members of his staff indicted with him — some of whom are still awaiting trial — rested on his shoulders. Kaplan “didn’t do anything,” he says. “He’s a noble, honorable human being.” Leach says he was happy with the plea deal. “It’s a matter of getting what you want to get out of the case,” he says. For Leach, that meant a felony conviction and prison time for Kaplan, as well as the forfeiture of the club. After court adjourned, Sadow described himself as “probably the least happy person about this decision given the way the case was going.” But he claims that a court victory for him and his client was less important than the liberty of those employees who have remained loyal to Kaplan since they were indicted almost two years ago. “I was hoping for years to hear a resounding verdict of not guilty, one after the other,” he says. Nonetheless, Sadow acknowledges that defense lawyers had approached federal prosecutors about the deal. The idea, Sadow says, was to see what the government would offer after presenting what he called the weakest part of the case. That testimony involved the New York nightclub, Scores, and Kaplan’s alleged role in attempting to take over the club on behalf of the Gambinos. Sadow calls the testimony regarding Scores “B.S. from the get-go.” He says he thought that “maybe at that point, the government would recognize that the organized crime portion of the trial sucked.” Shortly after Kaplan pleaded guilty Thursday, he slipped out of the courtroom to meet privately in a courthouse hall with four friends. Kaplan hugged them as four members of the Gold Club staff entered their guilty pleas. He wanted the moment to stay private. “We went in as a group,” says Sadow. “We’re going out as a group.”

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