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Patrick Ewing didn’t pay for anything at the Gold Club — not the private room, not the drinks, not the dancers, not the oral sex. So where’s the crime? Criminal defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook says there is none. “I don’t see the relevance of it,” Cook says of NBA star Ewing’s testimony Monday in U.S. District Court here. Cook says he suspects federal prosecutors called Ewing as a witness “for its pervasive, prejudicial effect” — to show “that those things that he testified about are, in fact, going on in the club. Hopefully, the jury would find them not in good taste.” Cook and other Atlanta attorneys say that under Georgia law, the manner in which Ewing said he was entertained at the Gold Club does not constitute prostitution. Ewing claimed that dancers performed oral sex on him on two occasions. But the athlete described no incidences of sexual intercourse and no sexual favors obtained either with cash or credit, attorney Bruce S. Harvey said after the athlete testified. And federal Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has ruled that under Georgia law, prostitution requires sexual intercourse; oral sex doesn’t count. Harvey is defending Gold Club dancer Jacklyn E. “Diva” Bush in the racketeering trial of the Atlanta strip club’s owner, Steven E. Kaplan, and several employees. But Joe D. Whitley, formerly U.S. Attorney for Georgia’s Northern District and now a partner at Alston & Bird, says that Ewing’s descriptions of how he was sexually serviced by Gold Club dancers, while not prostitution, qualify as similar acts under federal evidentiary rules. Ewing’s testimony “is part of the overall framework of information that is relevant to the prosecution’s case,” Whitley says. As other witnesses testify, prosecutors will have to show that not only did Gold Club dancers have contact with athletes and celebrities but that, in some cases, that contact included sexual intercourse, the former prosecutor says. “Even if it’s not technically within the four corners of the Georgia prostitution statutes, it is still relevant for jurors to hear,” Whitley says. “With other athletes, I think the prosecution has forecast they are going to show there was sexual intercourse” with Gold Club dancers. EWING TESTIFIES Ewing — a former center with the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic’s newest player — testified Monday morning after he was escorted into Altanta’s Russell Federal Building through a private entrance. Dressed in a charcoal pinstripe suit, the basketball player folded his 7-foot frame into the witness box, hunched over the microphone, and answered Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Baker’s questions about his visits to the Gold Club while a player for the Knicks. His visits followed a pattern, he explained. “They escort me to the VIP room. They keep everybody away from me. They bring in the dancers. They dance.” It was during the 1996 Olympics that Ewing said he first met club owner Kaplan and manager Thomas “Ziggy” Sicignano. Ensconced in a private “Gold Room” on the strip club’s second floor, Ewing said he was informed by a club staff member that, “The owners are here and want to meet you. … They were from New York. They were fans.” When Kaplan and Sicignano joined him, they introduced themselves as “Steve” and “Ziggy,” he said, “and the girls started dancing.” According to Ewing, the women did more than dance. During that visit, “They started fondling me,” he recalled. “I got aroused. They performed oral sex.” Afterward, he said, “I hung around, talked to the girls. Then I left.” He didn’t tip the dancers for their sexual services or for their performances. “I was told it was taken care of by either Steve or Ziggy; I don’t remember which one,” he testified. Ewing said he met Kaplan and Ziggy a second time when he visited the Gold Club a year or two later. “They sat down. We conversated,” he said. “The girls danced. They fondled me again. I’m not sure which one of them [Kaplan or Sicignano] told them to take care of me. They [the dancers] performed oral sex again.” Both Kaplan and Sicignano remained in the room, Ewing recalled. He didn’t tip the dancers that time either. Once more, “I was told it had been taken care of,” he said. Ewing said that Kaplan and Sicignano also offered to have a dancer join the basketball player later at his hotel. “If I wanted one of the girls to come back to the hotel, they’d take care of it,” he recalled. He says he turned them down. But a dancer did show up at his hotel room later, looking for a teammate, he recalled. “I didn’t give her his room number. I wanted to know how she got my room number,” he said. Ewing said he probably visited the Gold Club 10 times. Dancers performed oral sex on him only when Kaplan and Sicignano were present, he said. Under cross-examination by Kaplan’s defense attorney, Steven H. Sadow, the basketball player agreed that he patronized the Gold Club because of its reputation, according to Sadow, of having “the prettiest dancers in Atlanta … not because you could have sex there.” Nor were the sexual favors what drew him back to the club on his return visits to Atlanta, he said. It was, instead, the privacy the club afforded him and the complimentary drinks and dances, he said. He confirmed that it wasn’t unusual for women to approach him with offers of sex. At the Gold Club, he never considered the dancers as “prostitutes” or himself as “a john,” he said. ‘WILL YOU HELP HIM OUT?’ Neither the defense nor the prosecution asked Ewing whether he remembered the dancers who serviced him sexually. Instead, after Ewing was dismissed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur W. Leach called former Gold Club dancer Jana Pelnis as a witness. Pelnis, who danced under the name “Frederique,” was one of two Gold Club dancers indicted with Kaplan. Last September, Pelnis entered a guilty plea. She agreed to testify against her former boss and co-workers as part of that plea. Pelnis testified that she was one of the dancers who performed a “lesbian sex show” for Ewing during one of his visits. At least five dancers were entertaining Ewing and a friend, she recalled. Kaplan was “in and out of the room” during those performances, she said. In fact, the club owner carried a flashlight to illuminate the dancers’ privates in the darkened room, she recalled. Pelnis said she did not have oral sex with Ewing that night. But she claimed that Bush and another dancer whose stage name was “Angelique” did. “I was never commanded to do anything or told to do anything explicitly,” she said. “I was encouraged.” Kaplan, she said, would ask the dancers, “Would you take care of him? Will you help him [Ewing] out?” After Ewing left, Pelnis said Kaplan called the entertainers into an upstairs restroom where he first met privately with Bush. Then, he told the dancers, “We’d be taken care of,” Pelnis recalled, “and to see Diva. We all went back in the bathroom.” Bush, she said, paid them each $400. But Harvey said during a break that Gold Club records show that when Ewing was at the club on April 6, 1998, Bush wasn’t working. “My client did not work that night,” he said. Ewing wasn’t the only athlete with whom dancers had oral sex, Pelnis testified. She also named Denver Bronco Terrell Davis and Philadelphia 76er and former Atlanta Hawk star Dikembe Mutombo as athletes on whom she either had performed oral sex or “a hand job.” Afterward, Pelnis said Kaplan gave her cash both times, although she could not recall how much. Still, the significance of the testimony may hinge on whether it fits a pattern of such behavior at the club, and whether sex acts included intercourse. PROSECUTORS ‘BETTER FOLLOW IT UP’ Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Wilmer “Buddy” Parker III, now a partner with Kilpatrick Stockton, says the federal racketeering statute under which Kaplan is being tried “does not recognize oral sex” as a predicate act. Nor was oral sex specified in the racketeering indictment, he said. To make their case, “They better have somebody come in and talk about acts of prostitution as opposed to oral sex,” he continued. And if someone did have intercourse with a dancer, prosecutors “better follow it up with somebody who paid for it. They better follow it up with [testimony that] Kaplan knew it and promoted it and paid for it,” he says. Otherwise, he said, calling a celebrity such as Ewing “can backfire on them. Any person who is in a position of notoriety being forced to testify in public about these events … in some sense is being humiliated. The question is why. If you don’t have a legal basis for that humiliation, it raises the question, ‘Why did you put this person through that?’ “It’s not like the case didn’t have the evidence of celebrities having sex in the record before the jury. … The defense isn’t questioning that. Nobody is claiming it didn’t happen. They have to prove acts of prostitution.” FROELICH: JUST ATTENTION-GETTER Defense lawyer Jerome J. Froelich Jr. — who is representing another Gold Club defendant, Atlanta police officer John Redlinger — says Ewing was called to testify simply “to catch the jury’s attention and to catch the public’s attention. “Do you think anyone has to pay money to get the girls who dance in the Gold Club to sleep with Patrick Ewing?” he asks. “I would bet you I could walk in bars with Patrick Ewing … and he could walk out with a woman who wants to sleep with him. … There are nine million women in this world willing to sleep with somebody to say, ‘I slept with them.’ That’s the way it is. … If no one’s paid, there’s no crime.” Defense lawyer Mark V. Spix, a partner at Spix, Krupp & Reece, disagrees. “When you talk about Dennis Rodman and these people, doesn’t it occur to them that the world is not hurling itself at them to f— them?” he asks. “The last time I was at a club and somebody wanted to sleep with me was — never. “I think they’ve proved people are having sex down there nine ways from Sunday. The question is: Have they proved sexual intercourse [took place with] the specific person getting the greenbacks?”

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