June 13, 2001 05:15pm
Strip Club Dancer Testifies
(ATLANTA, GA) -- A former dancer at Atlanta's hottest strip club testified Wednesday she saw a stripper perform a sex act on basketball star Patrick Ewing as the club's owner watched.
Debbie Pinson said owner Steve Kaplan repeatedly ignored her complaints about illegal sex and rampant drug use at Atlanta's Gold Club.
She said Kaplan advised her: ``I told you to mind your own business. You won't be complaining when we are sitting in the front row at Madison Square Garden.''
Kaplan and six associates are on trial in a racketeering case. Prosecutors say the defendants cheated patrons, funneled money to the mob and used the lure of sex with club dancers to attract celebrities, including pro athletes.
Pinson testified that Kaplan and two dancers were in a VIP room at the club in 1996 with Ewing and Charles Oakley, both New York Knicks at the time, when a stripper performed oral sex on Ewing.
Ewing's agent did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday. Ewing played center last season for the Seattle SuperSonics.
Pinson, who was also a club manager, said she quit in 1996 because ``I had some issues with things going on in the club.''
She testified that club customers and employees regularly used cocaine, Ecstasy and the date-rape drug GHB, and that Kaplan once refused to call an ambulance after a dancer overdosed. She said the owner encouraged drug and alcohol use by strippers, claiming it improved their performances.
Pinson said dancers often placed the thumbs of drunken men on charge slips to show that the patrons had agreed to the charges.
``I tried to stop this,'' she testified. ``I told Steve, `You're ripping people off. You need to run this place legit. You've got to control it. You've got to run this place like a business.'''
Defense attorneys sought to discredit Pinson in cross-examination, pointing out inconsistencies between what she told a grand jury in 1999 and what she said on the stand Wednesday.
``I couldn't tap into all my memories at that time,'' she said. ``As time has passed, I have remembered more.''
Pinson also said she regretted her choice of words in grand jury testimony when she said she was ``going to get the last laugh'' against Kaplan. ``It's not about the last laugh - it's about the absolute truth,'' she said Wednesday.