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October 7, 2020 31 mins

The Gold Club defendants are paranoid as their fellow employees take the stand, while the courtroom gets a lifetime supply of blow job testimony from celebrities. Who said jury duty was boring?

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:08):
School of Humans. This is Racket inside the Gold Club.
I'm Christina Lee. This is episode seven War Trial. Every day,
after the trial proceedings wrapped up, the Gold Club defendant's

headed from the courtroom to Steve Kaplan's house to decompress
from the hours of testimony. Entertainer Jackline Bush was tired
of hearing testimony bashing her all day. 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'd get to the house and everybody
would have to have a cocktail and just try 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,

and to you know, it just it was so overwhelming.
It was just too much. One day at Kaplan's, Jackel
went outside to smoke a cigarette and she said she
saw a FBI agent, Mark Sewell, filming the house with
a camp quarter. 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
when you had no privacy, you had you had nothing.
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 you're every step that you're making,

someone is watching you. Everybody was scared because we were
afraid that we were all going to prison. Yet to
the courtroom audience and reporters, Steve Kaplan seemed pretty cool
and collected. During the trial, Kaplan and his attorney, Steve Saydal,

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 Kaplin.
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 greatest guy as salt of the earth.

And then you read these transcripts where he sounds like
a ruthless businessman and just not a very nice guy.
It's very difficult to from the outside to have a
great idea about what he was really like. Attorney Craig

Gillen noticed though, that by comparison, all the defendants were
pretty paranoid. During a defense team huddle in the conference
room at the courthouse, the defendants looked for bugs. A
lot of the defendants were all worried about whether or
not the government was wire tapping the conference room, which
they weren't, looking under the table, looking in the air

conditioning system. Meanwhile, Kaplan wanted to discuss Gillen's game plan
for his client, alleged mobster Michael did Leonardo Caplin, z
I I need to talk to you, like, oh, okay, no, no,
not here. So we get in the hallway. What is it.
I'm not comfortable here in the hallway, all right? Then
we go into the court vestiable in there, which is

sort of this little small room almost closet between the
hallway and the inner courtroom. Same thing, and it's too important.
I can't can't tell you here. So then we walk
into the courtroom. Everybody has gone for the day. We
walk over to the podium. Caplan starts giving gill And

a pep talk, and Caplan goes, tomorrow, I really want
you to jump on this guy. Want you to really
cross you damn him. I want you to really you know.
And there's some some expletive deleteds flying around there and
I'm trying to say none to Steve, and so he
goes on for about ten or fifteen seconds, and I say, congratulations,
you have now walked me to the only live mike

in this floor, because that mike is broadcast back into
the judges chambers. It was pretty funny. The name of
this episode is war Trial because that's what Gilan call it,
the Goal Club case. He says that while every trial
can get emotionally, fraud the Gold Clubs was particularly intense.

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 was a lot
of the major forces here, the government throwing its entire
the way to 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 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. Thomas Cichignano 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 star witness. Leech as Ziggy about
his youth basketball program Brooklyn, USA, establishing to the jury
that he is the sort of man who could be
trusted with kids. But then Leech went over all the

charges against Kaplin, from loan sharking in Florida to extorting
scores to the fact that Kaplan would take care of
his girls so that they'd have sex with athletes. Ziggy
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. Yet the courtroom stayed packed
with all the anticipation over who would eventually take the stand,
and the courtroom wasn't that big. So as Ziggy 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. Even though Ziggy was
testifying against Kaplan, he couldn't help a boast about his
friend's business savvy. At one point, he compares Kaplan's work
ethic to that of Michael Jordan's, and he detours into

these long winded press conference type speeches about Kaplan. Ironically,
Ziggy emphasized what made the Gold Club work was teamwork.
Over the next five days that Ziggy was on the stand,
the defense's cross examination zeroed in on his hypocrite that
while he's out in Kaplan on all these crimes, Ziggy

seemed just as complicit. Bruce Harvey, representing Jacqueline, had to
make the courtroom see Ziggy for who he really was
with his flair for the dramatic. 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
Ziggy was nothing but a snitch, a pimp snitch. Harvey's
point was that Ziggy had also arraigned 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. 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. Sado 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 please?
Sado's 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 him. At least that's what they thought. As I'm
watching him, I'm saying, there ain't no reason to attack him.
This man can't keep his mouth shut. You can't get
him to answer a question. And there's nothing that's more
frustrating to a jury than a witness being asked a

direct question and not getting an answer. Sayt, I figured
that Ziggy would board the jury to death, so I
asked a question. He starts talking, and I said, you know,
why don't I just sit down until he's done. So
I go back to my chair at the table away
from the podium, and I said, and when he's done talking,

I stand up and I say, anything else you'd like
to say about that question? And I'd ask a question again,
and he started 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,
Ziggy is even annoying Judge Hunt. He keeps looking at
his watch before he calls a recess out of frustration,

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. One legal expert and
observer said that by the end of the cross examination,
Ziggie kept dabbing his glistening forehead with a towel and

looked like a wounded animal. His testimony was a total wash.
All the defendant's former co workers and friends were taking
the stand. Amanda Poppas, also Jacqueline's ex says that Jacqueline

had shown her the ropes of the gold rooms, how
to sneak around and have sex with customers for money.
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. So the Gold
Club trial was unique because you'd get these episodes of
sleeve siness. For instance, they had a young stripper on
the stage. This girl and a friend of hers would
go down to local cell phone store and basically pay

their cell phone bill with blow jobs every couple of weeks.
The prosecution's other start witness was entertainer jan Impellness, known
as Frederic. At the club, she testified that Capam paid
her to perform sexual acts on athletes to Kenby Mtumbo
and Terrell Davis. She also said that Jacqueline was prosecuting

herself and others both inside and outside the Gold Club.
But Janni's testimony was also falling flat. She said that
while yes, she'd reimbursed, quote, I was never commanded or
told to do anything by mister Kaplin. He would encourage it.
When I examined her instead of attacking, I said, so,

as far as your concern, Steve Kaplan was a voyor.
He was just in there for his own personal pleasure.
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, and the jurors
looked at her like you were making this story up.
Not another person has said this. This is disgusting, and

you know that's the only reason you're saying this is
a government has told you to say it. 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 is wrong with
this girl? She's just being proven a liar, So now

your testimony is null and voyed by next Jacklin was
particularly irate during Yannas testimony, and Yanna kept rolling her
eyes in Jacqueline's direction. She got so mad at one
point that she moved her mouth and looked at me
and said, fuck you. She was so pissed. I'm like,

are you kidding me? We'll be right back. It's late
July and journalist Bill Rankin was shocked to enter the
courtroom and see one of his favorite baseball players. I

was stunt when I walked into the court room money.
I was kind of late and I walked in and
Andrew Jones was sitting on the witness band and I
was like, oh my god, one of my favorite baseball
players of all time. Elana Brave's outfielder Andrew Jones was
there to testify about a night where a Gold Club
limo whisked him to a hotel room and sue entertainers

performed some girl on girl action before earning their attention
to him. If anybody looks at baseball in those the
Braves in the nineteen nineties and with Andrew Jens the
center field, he's a cocky guy. And he always had
this nice grin, kind of a shittyating grin. And when
the prosecutor asked who did you have sex with, he

had that little grin and he just said both of them.
That was quite a moment. And then he said after
that he went about thirty times to the club. I
guess he enjoyed it. He was only nineteen at the time.
Jones was amongst several well known athletes who testified about
sexual favors either performed or arranged by the Goal club

to implicate Steve Kaplan as the leader of a prostitution ring. 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.

When we asked Andrew Jones about that, he started laughing
and said, no, woman's 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's was

only twenty five minutes. The New York Knicks player had
been to the Goal 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. He swears
that he didn't seek this out or pay anyone to

do anything so, Like Andrew Jones, Ewing explicitly says he
only received blow jobs and he's never had to pay
for them. Remember, Sado had found that technically, under Georgia law,

prostitution can only be defined as intercourse. That's why even
throughout Ziggy's direct testimony, Sado kept objecting to leech his
vague allusions to sexual activity. This sexual activity included hand jobs,
blow jobs, lesbian sex shows, but technically none of that
qualified as prostitution. Attorney Bruce Harvey remembered Judge Willis Hunt's

constant interruptions in the courtroom during all the blowjob testimony,
well as Hunt would 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 became a study in oral sex as opposed

to prostitution. 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. 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 goal club. But then Leech had a word
with the judge. He said, counsel has spent much of
this time making arguments that are totally inappropriate before this jury,

he meaning Thomas is about to launch into to a
racial argument. I moved the court to advise the story
that the arguments that are beyond his reference to what
he expects to prove is inappropriate. At this time, I said,
there were a lot of white's leverages who were not
being brought in the trial and subjected to all of that,

and they were just bringing in Patrick Ewing and the
various other people they were thinking about calling, and I
thought that that might have some racial component to it.
There were some things that were going on that I
felt that crossed the line, and in of course, obviously
get ready to call it for what I saw it.
You know, it was called balls and strikes as they are.

Later in the trial, one athlete ended up suing Ziggy.
Ziggy had claimed that Antonio Davis of the Indiana Pacers
took Kaplan up on an offer to have sex with
an entertainer. Ziggy stuck to his story even after Davis
sued him fifty million dollars. Apparently ziggihid mistake in Antonio

for his teammate Dale Davis. And it wasn't just the
athletes were mad about their names being brought up during
this high profile trial. Part Way through Roy Chicola's attorney,
Nick Latito, got a call. 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, Latito mentioned that secret service agents,
once accompanying Carl the sixteenth Gustaf to one of the
gold rooms. That ignited a wave of interest from the

Swedish press, and two 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 That never materialized. But as we were leaving court
that day, I said to somebody, and Bill Rankin, who

covered the case, was close by and he heard me say,
I'm not trying to start a war with Sweden. I
love blonds. We'll be right back well. Caplan 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 clubs
screwed them over by tens of thousands of dollars. One
said that in October nineteen ninety nine, a night out
at the Gold Club until Fourium 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 Crowning
cokes and three hours, he was sober, calling himself a
big boy and at his hound. Businessman said that he

asked manager Roy Chicola to remove one hundred dollar tip
off at a thousand dollars membership fee, but then he
asked to have the whole bill avoided 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 Leech developed 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. They are agreeing to pay that.
They're just agreeing to pay that for sex. Okay. Then

there's the other category, which is people that are simply
victimized in terms of credit card fraud. 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

twenty five thousand dollars, the natural conclusion is what did
he get for twenty five thousand dollars? You know, it
doesn't make sense to me that that could 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. He admittedly had
sex at the club. Oral sex and intercourse. He never
accused the club of fraud, but 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
and left was true? At that point in time, I
was by my tunity just to get out of it.
That you just lost it. We did say that I
was overcharged, but we didn't go through and find tune

comb everything because what we're not going to do. They're
gonna give me back my money. So why go through that?
Why go through the embarrassment? I mean, look at it.
I spent over one hundred and seventy thousand dollars in
six months. Who does that? I could have bought another
house for that. Yeah, runs my mind. But back then

and into it, I didn't know I was even closer
that figure. I didn't know. Well, I don't know. If
you want to talk about this about prostitution, um, I
will say that. I'll say I'll say this, there was
no prostitution at the Gold The act of sex sometimes

did happen, but that's it. So no, all right, there
was there was There was no money exchange for any
sexual activity. That's the best way I could put it.

By the dog days of summer, journalists Bill Rankin noticed
that Judge Hunt was getting impatient. Other journalists were predicting
that the trial could drag into November. It's my understanding
that Judge Hunt, Steve was kind of frustrated, I 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,
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. You know, all of these defense
lawyers are people that I have dealt with many, many,
many many times over the course of the years, and

they are consummate professionals, 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 in
that hurts their clients and will lead to an 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. Here's say it ol again. Leach appears

to be oblivious to the fact that he's getting beaten
around the head. It's like a drunken puncher boxer, someone
who's just been hit around the head so many times
he doesn't realize anymore. He's just getting the s kicked
out of him. All of a sudden, 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 US Attorney that the government is not doing
real well and there would be nothing worse than the
government losing this case. Across the board. They asked 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 on the next and final episode

of Racket. So this thing wrapped up in two thousand
and one, and then nine eleven happened. The entertainers were
all being fired. They were all losing their jobs. It
was really kind of sad in a lot of ways.
Half of the guys from the trial were hanging out
at the smoothie game cash. I said, yeah, three million,

give or take in cash. I looked out of mindset.
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 was like, yeah, right,
and she went no, you could call it God's Club.
I was like, you've got to be kinning. Oh my life,

how's billicking? Racking? Racking? Oh my love? How's bill? Oh? Racket?

Inside the Gold Club is a production of School of
Humans and iHeartRadio Rackets, written and narrated by me Christina
Lee and produced by Gabby Watts. Caroline Slaughter is our
supervising producer, special thanks to Taylor church In Sonambashi. Music
is by Claire Campbell and sound design and mixes by

Tune Welders. Executive producers are Brandon Barr, Elsie Crowley, and
Brian Lavin, along with Scott Grubman and Lauren Zimmerman. School

of humans,
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