Christine MacDonald, Tom Greenwood and Micki Steele
July 14, 2010 (The Detroit News)
Detroit – First, police say she danced as Fantasy. Then, she performed as Sparkle.
Now, the 15-year-old girl is in a juvenile lockup and renewing debate about whether Detroit is doing enough to regulate its topless clubs.
Acting on a tip about an underage performer, police raided Club Onyx on Monday and found that the girl dancing in a yellow bikini is the same one arrested in April for performing at the All Star Lounge.
They were doubly surprised since that club on Eight Mile near Greenfield was padlocked just hours earlier after a judge declared it a nuisance in part because of the April incident, said John Roach, a police spokesman.
Police may be shocked, but opponents and defenders of the clubs aren’t.
The Rev. Marvin Winans of Perfecting Church, who helped persuade the City Council in February to ban lap dances and require licenses for most employees at the clubs, said: “She is not the only one doing this.
“This has become a li! festyle for our young people because they are exposed to it.”
Attorneys for the club are suspicious, accusing the police – or others – of setting the girl up. They say the girl entered the club 15-30 minutes before police arrived and showed the staff a state ID showing she was of age. By law, dancers must be at least 18.
“I just find it hard to believe the same girl who was found dancing at All Star came to another club at Joy and Greenfield and the police are called again,” said Elias Muawad, an attorney for Club Onyx.
“I think she is working with someone … local law enforcement or someone else.”
Roach said the girl, who turned 15 in May, “is not working for us.”
She was taken to the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility and could face charges of indecent exposure, child sexually abusive activity or other charges. Charges for the managers are also possible, and prosecutors could move to ask a judge to declare Club Onyx a nuisance and padl! ock it.
Two employees at Club Onyx were arrested during ! the raid , said Dana Nessel, another attorney for the club. But she said prosecutors told her late Tuesday they were not charged and would be released pending an investigation.
Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Prosecutor Kym Worthy, declined comment.
Acquaintances who know the girl – who lives near All Star Lounge – said her 39-year-old mother tries but can’t control her. Police credited the mother with tracking the girl down at the strip club in April and bringing about the raid.
“She is fast and disrespectful of her mother,” said Tay Giles, 39, who has known the family for about three years. “She would pull a garbage can up to the window and jump out of the house.
“From what I could see, her mother was doing what she was supposed to do … but if you sat down … had a conversation with her, you would know she’s underage because she’s not capable of having a grown-up conversation.”
Court records show prosecutors filed a truancy violation against the gir! l in April, claiming she missed more than 90 days of school.
The girl testified this month she worked at two other strip clubs before All Star hired her – without ever asking for ID – and a girl she went to Northwestern High School with also worked at the club. She claimed she worked at All Star several days a week, and police say she made about $350 a night.
Attorneys for the club say she is lying and used a fake ID. They plan to appeal the padlocking.
Club Onyx is about five miles from the All Star Club.
Marcellus Travers, 33, who regularly visits a relative near the girl’s former house on Avon, said he would often see her walking down the street with a grocery bag in the early morning. She wore skimpy tops and short shirts and appeared to have been dropped off at the corner, he said.
“She’s a very attractive young lady. She’s too fast for 15,” Travers said.
This latest raid came on the eve of a preliminary hearing for Andre Hutson, the! former All Star manager who was ordered Tuesday to stand tria! l on a c harge of child sexually abusive activity for allegedly hiring the girl.
The girl testified against Hutson on Tuesday during the hearing at 36th District Court. He faces up to 20 years if convicted.
Roach said the girl was at Club Onyx “in the capacity of a dancer,” but wouldn’t comment on what she was wearing or whether she was ever topless.
“We categorically deny she was dancing for anybody,” Muawad, the club attorney, said. “There were no customers. It was all the workers. It was a dead night.”
Police said they recently spoke with Club Onyx staff about underage dancers and were working on an agreement with the club on several unrelated violations. Roach said the club has been the scene of one fatal and several nonfatal shootings.
“We were working on an agreement in which they would commit to certain actions, such as making sure it was a 21-years-of-age-and-older only club, that they maintained video surveillance on the premises, and that they ! would provide us access to those kinds of controls,” Roach said.
Nessel said the bar has cooperated with police. She said some isolated problems had occurred in the parking lot, but the club was working closely with law enforcement to solve the problem.
“We requested members of the police department to come in and give lectures (to club staff),” Nessel said. “It’s a legitimate business, and they are trying to work within the balance of the law. They don’t want to cause havoc in the community.”
Tuesday’s incident comes several months after the City Council adopted new restrictions on strip clubs, including bans on VIP rooms. Council members considered, but rejected, requests by Winans and other religious leaders to ban alcohol at the clubs.
Winans said the incident was made possible by “an inept council” and a “very silent mayor and a police force that coddles this type of behavior.”