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Testimony resumes in Gold Club trial

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Gold Club  


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A former Atlanta police officer apparently rejected a government plea bargain Monday, as testimony resumed in the Gold Club trial.

The plea rejection comes after owner Steve Kaplan and four other co-defendants pleaded guilty earlier this month in exchange for lesser sentences.

But it appeared there was no deal for Reginald Burney, who once was a permit inspector supervising nude dance clubs. He sat solemnly in the courtroom as a former club manager testified that Burney had received VIP treatment -- including free champagne and free food -- as well as oral sex at the club.

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Jeff Johnson, the former club manager turned government witness, testified that after Burney retired from the police department, he was hired as a Gold Club consultant. In that role, Johnson said Burney warned managers in advance of permit checks or police raids.

When club managers were told inspectors would be coming, Johnson said a lookout was posted at the door and walkie talkies crackled with the code word -- wildfire -- indicating cops had arrived.

Burney was charged with accepting bribes from Kaplan in exchange for warning the club of pending inspections by city officials and any police checks of dancers' permits.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Burney had talked about a possible deal earlier in the day, sources said, but it apparently went no where.

On August 2, Kaplan accepted a deal with the government in which he lost ownership of the club after pleading guilty to participating in activities involving a pattern of racketeering, failure to report a felony he had observed -- prostitution -- and credit card fraud.

As part of the agreement, Kaplan was expected to be fined $5 million and sentenced to up to three years in prison, considerably less time than he would have gotten if convicted. The government also could have seized all his assets, estimated at $50 million.

Sentencing will not happen until the government makes a formal recommendation to U.S. District Judge Willis Hunt, who has presided over the nearly three-month trial.

The jury reconvened at 9 a.m. Monday. The other remaining defendant in the trial, accused Gambino mobster Michael D. DiLeonardo, also known as "Mikey Scars," is also scheduled to appear in federal court Monday. He previously declined to accept a plea agreement.

Johnson testified that DiLeonardo was also afforded VIP treatment during some 10 visits to the club. Johnson said he was ordered not to talk to DiLeonardo, who managers said was a close friend of Kaplan's.

--CNN Investigative Correspondent Art Harris contributed to this report



Greta@LAW




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