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Republican prosecutor nominee’s largest donor is After Dark strip club owner

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. from — The Republican candidate for Pulaski County prosecutor, who is heavily favored to win tomorrow’s election over Democratic candidate Wayne Gifford, has listed an adult entertainment owner as the biggest donor to his campaign.

Kevin Hillman [pictured] said he didn’t know that Matthew Wagner, who listed himself as a self-employed resident of Dixon, was the owner of the After Dark strip club on Highway 28 between Dixon and Saint Robert.

Hillman was alerted to the contribution months ago by media and initially said he’d consider returning it, but according to campaign finance reports filed last week, has not done do.

“I had spent the money by the time,” Hillman said. “The gentleman’s name is a very common name; I had no idea. I didn’t want to get in trouble with the state for screwing up those campaign finance reports, because quite frankly, they are harder to fill out than a tax return. I’d rather take the heat for getting a contribution I didn’t know about versus screwing up something and having the state of Missouri coming after me for doing something wrong.”

Wagner is a new owner of the strip club on Highway 28; previous names for the club under prior owners included Big Daddy’s and Mud Puppy. Wagner, who had previously lived in Springfield, purchased the club and not long afterward became a crime victim. He wasn’t happy with the way current prosecutor Deborah Hooper, who Hillman defeated in a three-way Republican primary, had handled the case.

“He put that into a donation box at a fundraiser and I reported it like I’m supposed to. It doesn’t change my position on anything,” Hillman said. “To the gentleman’s credit, he never asked me in any way, shape or form about the business he was in; he solely said that his house had been broken into, and had not been prosecuted and he was very upset about that and he wanted to see someone in office who would prosecute those types of crimes.”

However, Hillman said he won’t make decisions on prosecution based on who does or does not donate to his campaign.

“It’s not my decision to look at what they do or who they associate with,” Hillman said. “Everyone, no matter who they are or what they are in this county, deserves the same level of prosecution as everyone else does. I plan on being completely fair and balanced towards everyone.”

Wagner hasn’t been accused of criminal activity in Pulaski County, but Hillman noted that he runs a legal business.

Even if he didn’t, Hillman said he still would be entitled to protection against criminal activities.

“They deserve to have the same level of care and attention paid to their case whether they are the presiding commissioner or the lowest-level person in the county,” Hillman said. “There should be no difference in how you treat a crime based on what they do. Oftentimes your crime victims are people who are involved in some sort of activity; oftentimes in a drug case, you’ll have a murder or assault based upon a drug deal gone bad and your victim is a drug dealer, but that doesn’t excuse the person who did it.”

Hillman said he’s aware of efforts by the current prosecutor to file cases involving crimes committed against other adult businesses in Pulaski County, including robberies at the Lion’s Den adult bookstore and the Big Louie’s adult entertainment complex just outside St. Robert.

Hillman said that as far as he knows, there aren’t any more serious criminal issues at After Dark than other adult businesses in the area and there’s no reason to view After Dark as more problematic than other businesses.

“If they’re robbed or someone commits a crime there, it’s the job of the police to respond and the job of the prosecutor to prosecute,” Hillman said. “It’s no different to me than if someone goes in and robs a bank. Why should I treat the bank teller different than the clerk at the Lion’s Den?”

Hillman said he doesn’t patronize adult businesses in Pulaski County, though he did visit some elsewhere years ago in college with his fraternity and as an ROTC cadet.

“I graduated from college in 1997, so it’s been 15 years ago or so,” Hillman said. “In my fraternity days I did a couple of those … When I was a cadet in ROTC and got done with a training session, the mentor lieutenant took us to one down in Killeen, Texas.”

Hillman said his wife, who was his “high school sweetheart,” is aware that he had visited adult entertainment businesses years ago.

All three Republican candidates were their own major contributors. However, in two cases donors from the same family gave to more than one prosecutor candidate. Hooper received a total of $500 from Twyla Cordry and Citizens Mortgage on Feb. 24, while less than a month later her husband Ray Cordry donated $250 to Jeff Thomas. Likewise, local attorney John Farris donated $250 to Hooper on Feb. 24, while on May 19 he donated $250 to Kevin Hillman.

Other significant donors in the prosecutor’s race are attorney Darrell Deputy of Lebanon, who gave $325 to Hooper, and Linda and Rick Reese of Waynesville, who gave $100 to Hooper; Carey Heitman of St. Robert who gave $200 to Hillman, David Finnegan of Dixon who gave $375 to Hillman, and Terry Kilroy of Kansas City who gave $200 to Hillman; Larry Ceranick and Stephanie Wicks of St. Robert who gave $150 and $200, respectively, to Jeff Thomas, Norma Thomas of Dixon who gave $200 to Thomas, Charlotte Allen of Waynesville who gave $100 to Thomas, and Bil Douglas of Richland who gave $200 to Thomas.

In addition, campaign finance records show a $1,200 in-kind contribution to Hillman from Rick Lepard of the Pulaski County Web for advertising.

Hillman’s Democratic Party opponent had not yet spent anything on his campaign as of the Oct. 25 filing date. Wayne Gifford does, however, have $800 in four donations from individuals companies connected to Farris Brothers Investments of St. Robert; in the same family, Hillman had previously received $250 from John Farris and incumbent prosecutor Deborah Hooper had received $250 earlier during the Republican primary election campaign.


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