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Remaining Gold Club defendants cleared

The Gold Club
The Gold Club  


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The two remaining defendants in the Gold Club trial, a retired police officer and an accused captain of the Gambino crime family, were found not guilty Thursday in the federal racketeering case.

The acquittals in the four-month-old trial came nearly a month after owner Steve Kaplan and four other co-defendants struck plea deals that led to the shutdown of the Atlanta strip club.

Reginald Burney, a former Atlanta police officer, had been accused of warning managers in advance of permit checks and police raids on the club. Michael DiLeonardo was accused of taking protection money from Kaplan for the Gambino organized crime family.

After their acquittal, Kaplan, who was in the courthouse lobby, called the jury's decision a "good thing." He then left quickly in a red SUV.

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The trial featured graphic testimony about sexual favors and celebrity athletes -- sex allegedly paid for by Kaplan. Prosecutors said Kaplan made millions by using such enticements to encourage athletes to frequent his club, which in turn brought in people hoping to spot celebrities.

Basketball star Patrick Ewing and Atlanta Braves player Andruw Jones both testified about having sex with Gold Club dancers who were paid for their services -- Ewing on the club premises and Jones at a nearby hotel.

Prosecutors said that the club had ties to organized crime and that Kaplan paid protection money to the Gambino family.

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 is 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.

Four other defendants were part of the plea deal, including 32-year-old former Gold Club stripper Jacklyn Bush, also known as Diva, who pleaded guilty to failure to report interstate prostitution, including sex at the club.



Greta@LAW




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