By a 6-3 vote, the State Supreme Court this morning reinstated charges against the Strippergate four, allowing King County prosecutors to proceed against legendary local nude-dance king Frank Colacurcio Sr. and three others involved in the alleged 2003 Seattle City Council payoff scandal.
A majority opinion, written by Justice Barbara Madsen, said that while King County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Fox had agreed with Colacurcio that the Public Disclosure Act allows only for civil penalties rather than criminal, the high court sides with prosecutors that the act doesn't bar criminal prosecution for felony crimes, finding "insufficient" evidence the legislature intended civil action to supersede a criminal indictment and that the law "expressly" allows criminal remedies.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court, reinstate the charges against the defendants, and remand for further proceedings," Madsen ordered.
Besides Colacurcio, 89, and his son Frankie, 44, the defendants are longtime Colacurcio associate and musician John "Gil" Conte, 72, and office manager Marsha Furfaro, 66, charged with nine counts of violating election disclosure laws in 2003. They're accused of conspiring to bundle $39,000 in donations (made by almost three dozen friends, family and business associates) and steer them to three council members who might help Colcacurcio win a rezoning for a parking lot at his Lake City nude-dance club, Rick's. Prosecutors claimed the Colacurcio strip empire provided the funds that were disbursed through others.
An earlier city investigation focused a great deal on Frankie Colacurcio and his then-wife Teena, and eight other donors. Those 10 accounted for $20,550 of the $39,000 given. Frankie Colacurcio called himself an "investor" and said he was investing in good political candidates. He operates the Colacurcio family's four nude clubs in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties. Two of the council members receiving funds, Judy Nicastro and Heidi Wills, later lost their bids for re-election. The third member, Jim Compton, was re-elected and subsequently decided to retire. All returned the campaign donations.
Seattle Weekly first detailed the political money laundering that led to a two-year city and state investigation. Earlier stories here and here. Read the high court's dissent by Justice Richard Sanders here.