By Elise Franco
All charges in the 18-month-long case against Go Go Girls Cabaret owner Sebastian Rucci and his co-defendants were dismissed Monday.
Visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran ruled in favor of a motion to dismiss, filed by Rucci on Sept. 29.
Rucci and four others — Curtis “C.J.” Jones, Derrick L. Dozier, Wayne Penny and Peter E. Sciullo II — were charged April 4, 2010, in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, perjury and two counts each of promoting prostitution.
A bench-trial before Judge Curran was scheduled to begin Monday for all of the defendants.
Judge Curran said he was “inclined to dismiss the charges” because Judge David A. D’Apolito, of Mahoning County Area Court in Austintown, had ruled Sept. 14 to dismiss 40 prostitution charges against 16 Go Go Girls Cabaret dancers.
Judge D’Apolito dismissed those charges based on videos of dancers in private rooms that he viewed during a motion hearing. Judge D’Apolito determined that no prostitution was shown. An appeal of this ruling has been filed at the 7th District Court of Appeals.
Judge Curran said the dismissal of the prostitution charges in Austintown gave him no choice but to vacate the charges in county court.
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa asked the judge to stay the case until the appeals court made a ruling, but her request was denied.
If the appeals court overturns Judge D’Apolito’s judgment, the prosecutor’s office would be able to re-file its indictment against Rucci and the co-defendants.
Rucci and attorneys for the other defendants argued all along that the basis for the prosecution’s case was prostitution.
“This case is based on the fact that Judge D’Apolito dismissed all of the prostitution cases,” said Atty. James Vitullo. “There is no other way to paint this picture. Without those underlying prostitution charges, the felony cases cannot move forward.”
Cantalamessa argued that the video excerpts shown in Judge D’Apolito’s court didn’t cover the full scope of the prosecution’s video evidence for the felony case. Cantalamessa said the prosecution never had a chance to present evidence in that case because it never went to trial.
“He gave them, essentially, a motion for summary judgment, and let them all off,” she said. “This was an ultimate issue to be shown at trial, not at a motion hearing.”
Cantalamessa said that given the opportunity to take the case to trial, the prosecution had evidence to prove that prostitution was happening inside the club.
“Lap dances are not a sex act. ... We have proof that these dancers are performing sex acts,” she said. “... We don’t think it’s the same evidence shown at that hearing.”
After court Rucci said that everyone is happy with the judge’s decision.
“It’s been a torturous 18 months that’s had an impact on all of our lives,” he said.