WOW, I cannot believe… I wonder if he’s going to be reimbursing all the legal fees his 93 employees… er… “independent contractors” and customers incurred to defend themselves against their felony charges for registering as voters??

Former Coates strip club owner acquitted

He was acquitted Wednesday of voter fraud conspiracy and forgery by a Dakota County jury.

By Jim Adams, Star Tribune

The former owner of a strip club in Coates was acquitted Wednesday of voter fraud conspiracy and forgery by a Dakota County jury.

Richard (Jake) Jacobson had argued that he thought his scheme was legal to recruit outsider voters to pack the Coates City Council with supporters who would allow his strip club to reopen.

Jacobson, 36, was acquitted two felony charges for his efforts to persuade 93 of the strip club’s patrons, dancers and others to register to vote in Coates (population 160) by listing their residence as the address for Jake’s Gentleman’s Club. Then they could vote for Jacobson’s supporters in the 2002 council election.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Joe Friedberg told the jury that Jacobson’s plan was based on erroneous legal advice but the club owner thought it was legal because of a legal loophole discovered by his former attorney, Randall Tigue. The loophole wasn’t valid, but Jacobson believed it was, Friedberg said.

Prosecutor Scott Hersey told the jury that it defied common sense to think Jacobson believed Tigue’s advice that he could legally steal the election.

Jacobson has professed innocence. “I don’t think I did anything wrong in the first place,” he said. He said he had received bad advice from Tigue.

Tigue testified Tuesday that he had advised Jacobson on various ways to get his three supporters elected to the council. Jacobson hoped a new majority would rescind the council’s ordinance that rezoned the strip club property as residential. Tigue said he didn’t advise Jacobson about the law against voter fraud conspiracy.

Tigue defended Jacobson through a 10-year legal effort by Coates officials to shut down the strip club. A federal judge ruled in March 2001 that the club violated zoning and licensing ordinances. Jacobson appealed and lost. The club closed in June 2002.

Hersey reminded the jury that some co-defendants testified that Jacobson’s bar bouncer, Brad McBride, told them Jacobson would pay the fines if they got in trouble for voting in Coates. That showed that Jacobson, who had told McBride and other employees to solicit new voters, “knew what they were doing was illegal,” Hersey said.

“He wanted to keep that club going, legal or illegal, it didn’t matter,” the prosecutor said.

The 93 people who filled out voter registration cards were charged with forging them by listing the club address as their residence; most have since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid fines.

Friedberg said Jacobson obviously thought his voting plan was legal when he mailed 89 of the registration cards himself to the Dakota County auditor’s office. He said he dropped the plan after the auditor’s office sent letters to the 89 voters challenging their eligibility.

After being charged in October 2002, Jacobson had pursued appeals to the state Supreme Court, which ruled he could rely on his attorney’s advice as a defense.

Tigue had cited a county attorney’s opinion on another case to Jacobson to justify his plan to import voters into the town that stretches along Hwy. 52.

That opinion, by Philip Prokopowicz, the chief deputy county attorney, involved an election law case in which 13 Minneapolis police officers listed their precinct address as their residence when they registered to vote.

Prokopowicz reviewed two state laws on voter registration but not the fraud and forgery laws Jacobson was accused of violating. Prokopowicz wrote in June 2002 that he found irregularities but no “criminal wrongdoing” by the Minneapolis officers.

Hersey noted the officers didn’t try to rig an election outcome or solicit others to vote a certain way.

“The defense says all they were trying to do was take advantage of a loophole,” Hersey said in court. “He was driving a Mack truck through loophole in a tree, and it didn’t fit but he drove ahead anyway.”

Jacobson said he still owns the vacant, pink building in Coates where his club operated and has considered reopening it since a favorable appeals court ruling in 2004.

Tigue said after Tuesday’s hearing that a federal appeals court decision in 2004 offered the possibility for Jacobson to reopen the Coates club with bikini-clad dancers.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658 •

©2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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