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"I got aroused" — When Patrick Ewing testified in a strip club trial

High-profile NBA athletes like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Dennis Rodman visited the club.
New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing

In 2001, NBA legend Patrick Ewing testified against a strip club owner on trial for racketeering charges which include prostitution, fraud, and money laundering. In his testimony, the New York Knicks icon admitted having sexual encounters with club dancers.

Two out of ten

Steve Kaplan, the owner of the Gold Club, was on trial for a federal racketeering indictment for facilitating prostitution, extortion, money laundering, credit card fraud, and bribing Atlanta police. The prosecution claimed that Kaplan lured high-profile celebrities into his club. It was to boost Gold Club’s status as the place-to-be.

Ewing said his first time at Gold Club was in 1996 when he was in Atlanta for the Olympics. Ewing admitted to visiting the Gold Club 10 times, and on two occasions, the dancers performed oral sex on him.

The Knicks legend pointed out that Kaplan and another manager Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano were present while the deed was being done. A report by CNN on Ewing’s testimony, which lasted 25 minutes, read in part:

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"The girls danced and started fondling me. I got aroused. ... They performed oral sex," Ewing testified.

When asked if he tipped them, Ewing said, "No, I was told it was taken care of." Afterward, "I hung around for a little while longer and then I left." 

Kaplan and his attorney claimed that he was unaware if any sex acts occurred in the club. If there was, it was consensual.

Mutumbo and Rodman

A former club dancer named Jana Pelnis also agreed to testify against Kaplan. According to her, he gave oral sex to shot block legend Dikembe Mutumbo. Dennis Rodman, too, was one of her clients.

Mutumbo, who had been reeling after losing to the LA Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals during the trial, panned criticism. Instead, he talked about the work he’s been doing for Congo and his positive image.

"My image will always stay positive. I'm doing so much good out there, not just playing basketball. As I said, it's not every day in our lives that you find people of my caliber trying to go out and build a hospital. I'm 35 years old and I've never seen somebody my age try to do it. I wonder myself, what has pushed me to go as far as I have gone, to try and accomplish something nobody else has done,” Mutumbo said, per The Morning Call.

Kaplan eventually pleaded to one count of racketeering and agreed to give up Gold Club. He also agreed to pay a $5 million fine and serve a prison sentence of 3-5 years.

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