Two Lousy Lawyers, a Conflicted Judge, and a Silent Mayor
If I've ever seen a set up in the works, this is it!
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
June 21, 2004
Treasures - the $30 million dollar prize
The Honorable George Assad
"I never should have made a promise our firm cannot
live up to. I was an idiot. I had no idea what I was saying." "What a moron
I was when I said there would be no convictions." "It is absolutely beyond
(the owners') control." -- Treasures attorney Mark Fiorentino
LAS VEGAS - Municipal Court Judge George Assad on August 30 is expected
to make a decision that could lead to the closure
of the $30 million dollar Treasures Gentleman's Club, and make an idle
promise worth its weight in legal gold.
Some background: In 2000, the Reverend, Dr. Annette Rizzolo-Patterson,
the sister of Crazy Horse Too skin joint owner Rick Rizzolo, with the help
of then-City Councilman Mike
McDonald, conspired to set up a “pop up church” next door to Presidential
Advisor and former Ambassador to Iceland Sig
Rogich’s property which is now the site of Treasures Gentleman's Club.
The site is located just down the street from the embattled Crazy Horse
The transparent reason for the "church" was to squelch the liquor license
of Treasures before it could be built so it would not compete with the
Reverend's brother's business, and to kill any chance the politically influential
Rogich would ever have of selling his property for use as a topless bar
because adult businesses are not allowed near schools or churches.
House of Holy Hooters" as it was playfully called, moved in -- then
abruptly closed when the Las Vegas SUN revealed
it was anything but holy, a move that almost landed Councilman McDonald
in the slammer.
Mayor Oscar Goodman consoles McDonald
the eve of his 2003 election loss
During the weeks it was open, several city officials
including Councilman Gary Reese were reported to have attended "services"
at the Universal Church for Life Enhancement giving it an appearance
Las Vegas Review-Journal, 07/22/00, Page 9D
Now, four years later, the preaching has stopped and Treasures is left
on thin ice -- some
of its' own making -- but not fragile enough to close it down as many desire.
The problem is that in 2001, after being chided from the dais by Mayor
Oscar Goodman, Treasures' attorney Mark Fiorentino in order to overcome
of the politically powerful Crazy Horse Too and Cheetah's, promised the
Mayor that Treasures would be held to a higher standard than its nearby
competitors. He went so far as to promise that if even one infraction of
law took place, his clients would voluntarily surrender their liquor license
and not fight the City in court. The Mayor and his subservient Council
reluctantly accepted Fiorentino's legally questionable offer and begrudgingly
granted Treasures a temporary liquor license fully knowing such a promise
could never be kept.
After $30 million dollars was invested in a palatial building, the bar
became a roaring success to the dismay of its nearby competitors along
with city fathers who would not even permit it to have a proper sign. In
the meantime, word was that competitors planted girls at Treasures to purposely
break the law and get caught.
Treasures off-premise signage is
limited to a rented reader board on the corner leading to the club
This week, to his professional credit, Fiorentino fell on his sword
for his client. In a humiliating
display of loyalty, he publicly rescinded his legally-challenged promise.
Though his rescindment fell on deaf ears, Fiorentino painfully self effaced
the Council: "What a moron I was," and "I was an idiot," in his pleading
to release him from his "no convictions" vow.
Attorney Mark Fiorentino
(STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN)
However, two other Treasures lawyers did not follow Fiorentino's lead
by falling on their swords for their client.
Last year, to the glee of competitors (and the Mayor), several Treasures
dancers were arrested for soliciting prostitution from undercover police
officers who along with a slew of City Business License Inspectors spent
a disproportionate amount of time hanging around the plush topless bar.
Nevertheless, under questioning from Councilman Larry Brown, City Business
License officials apologetically confessed that Treasures had fewer arrests
for prostitution during the same time period than three other city clubs
that enjoy good standings with the Mayor and Council. That fact made little
difference to several Councilmembers who seemed Hell bent to close this
one business. In the meantime, the Mayor found an excuse to abstain.
On June 16, Councilman Gary Reese acting as Mayor pro tem proclaimed
that a conviction could close Treasures. "If there had been a conviction
today, there would have been problems." "The bottom line is there was a
promise. I don't know how anybody can look back on a promise," he threatened.
Councilman Gary Reese
(STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN)
Las Vegas Metro Police Detective
Stacy Rodd then told the Council that the point was not whether Treasures
was the same as other clubs. "We were looking to them to follow through
what they promised," he said.
You can't legally single out a business that promises to set a standard
higher than that of its competitors, competitors including one infamous
topless bar only a few blocks away that's being investigated
by the FBI and IRS for extortion, tax evasion, prostitution, credit card
fraud, coercion, racketeering and mayhem
-- a business that nonetheless is not under scrutiny
by the City Council. A dangerous new standard will be set if a broken promise
is the basis for a Municipal Court verdict intended to result in the shutting
down of a prosperous business and put its building up for grabs.
Four Treasures dancers are about to stand trial on misdemeanor charges
in Judge Assad's Court. If convicted, Treasures is expected to be forced
into keeping their promise and surrender their license to the cheers of
nearby competitors (vultures) who are waiting to grab the $30 million dollar
building for dimes on the dollar.
Ross Goodman (yes, the Mayor's son), and Louie Palazzo were both hired
by Treasures for the sole purpose of defending the accused hookers in Municipal
court, and to possibly cause the outspoken Mayor to abstain based on conflict
Last Wednesday at the City Council meeting, both lawyers were told authorities
would not enter a plea bargain agreement with any Treasures dancer, though
at competing clubs, police testified that strippers accept plea deals in
85 to 100 percent of the cases. The same police officers told the Council
that since Treasures agreed in 2001 to be held to a higher standard, no
plea agreements would be accepted in their upcoming court case.
Strangely, no objection to the dual standard was lodged by either Ross
Goodman or Louie Palazzo, while Mayor Goodman was conveniently out of the
Ross Goodman capitalizes on his father's name and connections, while
Palazzo is best known for almost single handedly losing Rick Tabish's defense
in the Binion trial. Treasures could have done much better, but was evidently
sold a bill of goods.
Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge George Assad who was appointed to his
first term on the bench by Oscar Goodman, asked Ross and Louie to submit
on what they contend was entrapment and return to his courtroom Aug. 30.
In the meantime, both young attorneys and the Mayor had to have knowledge
that the Judge's political campaign was financed by people who have a stake
in his upcoming decision -- but the lawyers neglected to ask that he be
removed. Their lack of action sparked considerable discussion among court
According to information easily available
from the City Clerk and on the Internet, Honorable George Assad on 01/16/03,
accepted an in-kind contribution of a party worth $3,875 at a well known
watering hole owned by one of Rizzolo's and Galardi's buddies. On 01/22/03,
the Judge accepted a $5,000 campaign contribution from RICBAR LLC, a company
owned by embattled Crazy Horse owner Rick Rizzolo -- Treasures' nearest
competitor, along with a $1,000 contribution from Patti & Sgro, Rizzolo's
attorneys. On 02/05/03, Rizzolo's personal attorney Tony Sgro contributed
$550 of in-kind services to Assad's campaign. And on 02/19/03, Judge Assad
accepted a $5,000 contribution from indicted Cheetahs owner Michael Galardi,
another nearby Treasures competitor.
Altogether, Judge Assad accepted over $15,000 in cash and in-kind contributions
from contributors who have close ties to persons who would love to see
Treasures hit the auction block. His two main contributors include a man
who is under federal indictment for bribing public officials, and another
who is facing federal indictment for racketeering. But as far as the Judge,
Ross, and Louie are concerned, there's no problem.
Cannon 2 of the NEVADA CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT states: "A judge shall
avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's
activities. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act
at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity
and impartiality of the judiciary," but this Judge seems oblivious to Cannon
With so many vultures circling Treasures -- many who have invested heavily
in Judge Assad's political career -- wouldn't it have been prudent for
Assad to have recused on this case in order to avoid the appearance of
impropriety, or maybe for the defense attorneys to file a preemptory challenge
and have him replaced with someone perhaps not so conflicted? Hence, my
suspicion there's a setup in the works -- a setup to remove and replace
the present Treasures owner with another who has more friends in the local
To prove there's a double standard, on October 2, 2002, the Vegas City
Council ignored testimony from Randall Sayre, the Nevada Gaming Control
Board's chief of investigations, and obediently granted a permanent liquor
license to Albert J. Rapuano to be the general manager of the Crazy Horse
Too. Sayre presented a stack of evidence alleging Rapuano had mob
ties, but the Council couldn't care less. Based on that decision, an
complaint was filed against mob-lawyer-turned Mayor Oscar Goodman,
but it was later dismissed.
Now the same Council is holding Rapuano's nearest competitor to a much
Rapuano's easy licensing proved that it wouldn't be a problem for someone
else who's less than desirable -- but politically acceptable -- to obtain
a license to operate the Treasures building in the likely event Ross and
Louie fail to convince Judge Assad that the strippers were just socializing
with the undercover cops, not soliciting them for prostitution, or that
they were entrapped.
Then there's the silenced Oscar Goodman. The Mayor at great expense
put his son Ross through a prestigious law school. Now when an issue on
the Council agenda might put hundreds of city residents out of work, the
Mayor mysteriously abstained so his son could make a few thousand dollars
defending some accused hookers in Muni court. A transparent move based
on the fact that the vultures circling Treasures include many of lawyer
Oscar Goodman's former criminal defense clients, guys that made him a rich
man and may now be throwing clients Ross' way.
Maybe Goodman's nonchalance is because he knows that Treasures -- in
the event Judge Assad rules against it -- won't be dark for very long,
and because this may be the perfect opportunity for him to pay back some
big favors while appearing to not be involved.
And, if I were Ross Goodman's dad and I had just paid a small fortune
for my kid's college education, I'd tell my son to avoid causing me the
embarrassment of having to abstain on such an important issue, especially
knowing that my Council predecessor
would jump all over me in his AmericanMafia.com column. But, I'm not the
extremely popular Mayor of Sin City who is impervious to criticism in the
eyes of Vegas voters.
In the event Judge Assad does what I expect, someone very close to the
Mayor is probably waiting in the wings to steal the Treasures building
-- that's if the owners don't wise up first, dump Ross and Louie, and challenge
the conflicted Judge.
If the owners of Treasures can't see the emblazoned writing on the wall
by now, they never will.
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