Gold Club Trial: this time, tapes testify for defense of Kaplan

Copyright 2001 The Atlanta Constitution
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
July 13, 2001 Friday, Home Edition

GOLD CLUB TRIAL: This time, tapes testify for defense of Kaplan

Jurors in the Gold Club trial Thursday watched and listened to hours of FBI surveillance tapes as a defense lawyer tried to downplay comments club owner Steve Kaplan made to two men cooperating with federal authorities.

Defense attorney Steve Sadow had the video and audio tapes played a day after federal prosecutors played only brief excerpts from the October and November 1997 meetings between Kaplan and the owners of the New York strip club Scores, Michael Blutrich and Lyle Pfeffer. In the tapes, Kaplan can be heard, in profanity-laced Brooklynese, telling the two men how hard he works and how he turned the Gold Club into a money-making oasis.

Both Blutrich and Pfeffer are now serving prison terms for racketeering in New York and for a massive insurance fraud scam in Florida. At the time they talked to Kaplan at the Scores’ offices in Manhattan, they were cooperating with the FBI and had video and audio surveillance set up in the room.

According to the Gold Club indictment, Kaplan and co-defendant Michael DiLeonardo, an alleged Gambino crime family captain, extorted $100,000 from Blutrich and Pfeffer in the mid-1990s.

Sadow noted that no mention was made on the FBI surveillance tapes of the alleged extortion, nor does Kaplan ever refer to his alleged association with the mob. Some of the 17 jurors — 12 jurors and five alternates — had a hard time staying focused; at least two were nodding off toward the end of the day’s testimony.

Blutrich, whose cross-examination continues today, admitted that his guilty plea in New York to racketeering charges included possessing 30 pictures of minors engaged in explicit sexual conduct, which had been downloaded onto his computer hard drive.

Blutrich initially said he didn’t recall downloading the photos and noted that many people had access to his computer. Blutrich also tried to defend himself by saying the 30 photos were just 1.5 percent of the 2,000 pictures he downloaded from the Internet.

But when Sadow pressed him further on the issue, Blutrich finally conceded, “It’s my computer. I’m responsible.”