Prominent strip club Treasures, hauled into court as an alleged public nuisance and haven for crime by city and county attorneys seven months ago, has agreed to put $100,000 in a nuisance abatement fund as part of a settlement with the city of Houston, City Attorney David Feldman said.
Harris County attorneys, however, say they plan to proceed with the case. A trial was scheduled to start Monday, but has been delayed until February. If State District Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan declares Treasures a public nuisance, the club would close for a year.
The suit, filed jointly by the two governments in May, seeks to close the club at 5647 Westheimer for allegedly harboring prostitution, drugs, illegal weapons and sexual assaults. The club’s attorneys deny the allegations.
Feldman said the terms of the settlement are to be kept confidential to the extent possible. The Houston Chronicle late Monday submitted a Texas Public Information Act request for the settlement agreement.
Feldman said the agreement allows the city to achieve its aims in filing the suit, and then some.
“The parties have committed to work together to abate any nuisance activities which might occur in Treasures and have joined together to eliminate certain illegal activities in the city of Houston, including human trafficking,” Feldman said. “The agreement … puts procedures, verification and a fund in place that provide an opportunity for abatement in the short and the long term, which goes beyond what litigation might achieve.”
The County Attorney’s Office, which technically is representing the state of Texas in the suit, remains unsatisfied.
First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said the city’s decision to settle does not weaken his case.
“The idea that this agreement would remain secret is preposterous,” O’Rourke said, adding his office was not even given a copy of the agreement. “This case is going to trial. We will get them.”
I’m not qualified to address the secrecy question – it seems strange to me, but I’m not a lawyer – so I don’t really have a point to make. I just figured that after all the drama and intrigue, I ought to at least stick around to see how it all turns out. I suppose after funneling all that money to his opponent, Vince Ryan has no particular incentive to be accommodating. Along those lines, I will simply note that Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan, who was also targeted by Team Treasures, was the top vote-getter among Harris County judicial candidates, with 581,309. Her opponent, Bud Wiesedeppe, was the low scorer among judicial candidates, with 550,095 votes. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about a party to a legal action targeting the prosecutor or the judge politically. But perhaps the outcomes here will provide a small measure of disincentive for the future.