A King County jury didn’t award a dime to a retired strip-club owner who sued his former business partners for damages and lost profits resulting from the federal government’s 2009 seizure of adult-entertainment businesses run by the Colacurcio family.
The verdict, which was returned Monday, was “a triumph of common sense,” said Steve Fogg, a Seattle attorney who represented Frank Colacurcio Jr. in the civil case brought by 74-year-old Philip D. McKibben.
McKibben filed his lawsuit in July 2010, about four weeks after his longtime friend and mentor, Frank Colacurcio Sr., died at the age of 93 and two months before Frank Jr., was sent off to serve a year in prison on a racketeering-conspiracy charge.
McKibben also sued three other close associates: Colacurcio Sr.’s nephew, Leroy Richard Christiansen, 71; as well as David Carl Ebert, 66; and Steven Michael Fueston, also 66, who both worked as bartenders for Colacurcio Sr. before he brought them aboard as partners.
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McKibben’s lawyers argued during the two-week Superior Court trial that the partners’ illegal conduct destroyed Honey’s, the Everett-area club he once owned with the other men, and harmed him financially. He also argued that his partners misused company funds, didn’t reimburse him for legal expenses and deprived him of future profits.
He claimed he didn’t know about rampant prostitution and money-laundering going on inside Honey’s, despite decades of being involved in the strip-club industry.
The two Colacurcios, Christiansen, Ebert and Fueston were all federally indicted
in 2009 after a four-year investigation by police and federal agents. The men later entered a plea agreement with the government, but only Colacurcio Jr., 52, served prison time.
The government seized four strip clubs operated by the men, including Honey’s, and other property worth more than $7.5 million.
“Mr. McKibben is disappointed. He disagrees with the defendants’ presentation of the facts at trial, but respects the judicial process for resolving disputes,” his attorney, Jacob Lewis, said in an emailed statement to The Times.
According to Fogg, the jury found that Colacurcio Jr. had not been in breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty to McKibben, though they did find Christiansen, Ebert and Fueston were in breach. But the jury, in considering the men’s’ defenses, found that McKibben engaged in “willful blindness” about what was going on inside the strip clubs, Fogg said.
“If you intentionally avert your eyes from information that would reveal the problem, you can’t then later sue on the basis of a blind eye,” he said.
During trial, the jury heard McKibben made $3 million from Honey’s between 2000 and 2008 alone, Fogg said.
McKibben had asked for at least another $1.3 million in future profits and $500,000 for attorney fees, but the jury didn’t award him any damages, according to Fogg.
McKibben avoided being federally indicted alongside the two Colacurcios, Christiansen, Ebert, Fueston and another club manager.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.