Halbach won't face felonies

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
— Janesville’s police chief said he and the officers who worked on the Screamin’ MeeMees case are “very disappointed” felony charges weren’t filed against Jim Halbach, the strip club’s de facto owner, or Randy Peterson, the club manager.

Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary said he negotiated the agreement because his primary concern is making sure no strip club operates or re-opens at 402 W. Delavan Drive.

The agreement includes no felony charges, even though police arrested Halbach and Peterson on suspicion of felony prostitution.

Chief Neil Mahan said he was pleased the plea agreement closes the strip club for good, calling it “a significant victory for the city of Janesville,” and he gave O’Leary credit for his part in that victory.

Halbach and Peterson were due in court Monday afternoon for what was expected to be the filing of up to 12 felony charges of keeping a place of prostitution and one misdemeanor charge of prostitution against Halbach and up to five felony prostitution charges against Peterson.

Instead, no charges were filed against Peterson, 49, of 3626 Falcon Ridge, Janesville, and only a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge was filed against Halbach, 52, of 3337 S. Schuman Road, Orfordville.

Mahan said he appreciated the fact that he was able to sit down with O’Leary and discuss the case.

“We were absolutely on the same page in terms of closing the business down,” Mahan said.

“First and foremost, I recognize that it is the district attorney’s sole discretion to make decisions about charging and about dispositions. That’s his statutory authority and his role as prosecutor,” Mahan said.

However, “I believe, and those who worked on this case believe, that the felony charges against both Randy Peterson and Jim Halbach are wholly substantiated and supported by the evidence and investigative documents that we submitted to the district attorney’s office,” Mahan said.

O’Leary said he could not comment on the strength of the case because it is not concluded.

“The agreement was based on the investigation,” O’Leary said.

“My first priority was getting the place shut down and making sure that illegal activity does not take place there again,” O’Leary said.

Screamin’ MeeMees, a non-alcohol operation open to those 18 and older, was Janesville’s only strip club.

O’Leary outlined elements of the plea agreement:

-- Relinquishing the now-defunct strip club’s adult entertainment license, which was held by Halbach’s wife, Rebecca. She has relinquished the license.

-- Restricting the deed on the property so that no one else may apply for the adult entertainment license.

The building is not in an area zoned for such a license. But because the city council enacted the adult entertainment ordinance after Screamin’ MeeMees opened, the business was grandfathered in.

The grandfather exemption also would allow another adult entertainment license at the address for 12 months after the original license was relinquished. The deed restriction would close that window.

-- Donating the building to a non-profit organization.

After the hearing, Scott McCarthy, one of the Halbachs’ attorneys, confirmed that the deed restriction and donation were in process. He noted that a donation to a nonprofit organization depends on the group accepting the property.

“From our perspective, there was no felonious activity there,” McCarthy said. “The informant they used is a scorned former employee, who I think we proved was unreliable.”

Furthermore, the owners and managers of Screamin’ MeeMees and Diamond Jim's & The Isabella Queen—a tavern and strip bar at 6530 S. Highway 51 in Rock Township also owned by the Halbachs—have a history of cooperating with law enforcement and of kicking out dancers and patrons for inappropriate behavior, McCarthy said.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office has conducted a separate investigation into possible prostitution at Diamond Jim’s.

Sheriff’s investigators still are trying to identify the people in three video-recorded instances of apparent sexual contact at Diamond Jim’s, Lt. Todd Christiansen said Monday afternoon.

If the people can be identified, investigators will forward the cases to O’Leary for review and possible charges, Christiansen said.

Most of the 18 misdemeanor prostitution charges already filed by the DA’s office against other people in connection with Screamin’ MeeMees involved sexual contact—rubbing or touching of breasts or genitalia—but not oral sex or intercourse.

O’Leary anticipates that Halbach will plead guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and follow through on the deed restriction and donation.

If Halbach does not meet the agreement’s other provisions, O’Leary said he would file felony prostitution charges against him.

The misdemeanor criminal complaint against Halbach alleges that he exposed himself to one of the 15 women previously charged with misdemeanor prostitution and that she rubbed him.

“At one point, another female person is also present while the defendant exposes (himself),” according to the criminal complaint.

The cases against others are proceeding in court. At least three—including two in which men were charged—have resulted in guilty pleas. One resulted in a guilty plea to disorderly conduct.

LaShonta Nickison, 21, Milwaukee, was fined $476 for prostitution. She is the woman that the criminal complaint alleges was rubbing Halbach.

Reporter Frank Schultz contributed to this story.

Last updated: 9:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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