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More On the Playmates Strip Club Bust; If Nothing Else, This Club Delivered as Promised

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Cocoa, Florida – from www.floridatoday.com – Depending on where one is in Brevard County, the rules governing strip clubs differ.

But they all have one thing in common: Sexual contact is illegal.

Police arrested seven women Thursday night on charges of violating a city ordinance regarding behavior inside a strip club in northwest Cocoa. Three of the women were charged with solicitation of prostitution.

“I’ve seen some of the video from the club,” said misdemeanor division chief Michelle Perlman with the Brevard-Seminole State Attorney’s Office. “There is total nudity in the club.”

The State Attorney’s Office said they have a contractual relationship with certain municipalities to prosecute specific code ordinance violations that the cities have designated as criminal.

But attorney Todd Deratany, who represents the Playmates club, said the city of Cocoa is in violation of an agreement entered with Playtime Inc. in 2008 that states the punishment for full nudity would be the elimination of extended weekend hours.

“Playmates opened back up, and I was there to make sure there were no problems,” Deratany said. “I’ll be going forward with aggressive representation for the club against the city.”

Deratany also represents the manager of the club and may represent some of the women who have been charged.

The women — along with club manager Ray Baycora — were arrested as a result of a two-month investigation into complaints about illegal sex, code violations and nude revues at Playmates on South Industry Road. But many times, the results of these law enforcement operations are tantamount to little more than a slap on the wrist, say those in the legal community.

“It’s challenging because of all the different rules in the different cities and the county,” said Melbourne criminal defense attorney Patrick Barbary of the firm Morgan & Barbary. “But when the issue becomes addressed by educated people looking at the big picture, they see a contract between two consenting adults.

“Though the investigation was likely very costly and took two months, the exposure for the accused will likely be misdemeanors, over which the citizens arrested are unlikely to lose much sleep over.”

The women arrested were Mandie Lasco, 21; Crystal Renfroe, 25; Crystal Vera, 29; Debby Amirault, 26; Donna Tanner, 44; Norma Mae Petro, 38; and Lynda Sue Gleim, 41. Baycora was arrested on three counts of allowing workers to engage in prohibited acts.

Melbourne attorney Steve Casanova, who a few years ago defended some of the same women for allegedly offering sexual favors on Craigslist, describes cases such as this as “very defendable, due to technicalities in the law and social beliefs.”

Clear violations, though, are another matter, as is prostitution.

While prosecutor Perlman explained that most ordinance violations of this nature are second-degree misdemeanors, several other charges are possible, including violations of state ordinances, municipal ordinances and sometimes both.

“Often, that depends on how it comes to our office,” she said, adding that she has yet to receive the full case report from the Cocoa Police Department.

A first-time offender arrested for prostitution is normally charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. A second offense rises to first-degree status. A third prostitution charge is a felony.

In either case, the women charged with solicitation of prostitution — Tanner, Petro and Gleim — can expect to spend at least a week in jail, if convicted.

“In general, we do recommend 10 days in jail under the prostitution statute,” Perlman said.

More than 20 years ago, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office did routine ordinance checks in adult clubs to make sure dancers and customers were following the rules.

But that is not the case now.

“Sheriff’s office enforcement actions concerning adult entertainment have related specifically to state law violations and are complaint-initiated,” Cmdr. Doug Waller said. “Brevard County’s Code Enforcement and Health Department are very effective in ensuring establishment license compliance. Our response requests to exotic dancing businesses are commonly referenced to alcohol-related criminal activity.”

Cocoa police said their investigation was in response to citizen complaints of sexual activity spilling out into the parking lot.

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