Former bar owner sues county

Paul Williams, former half-owner of the First Amendment Club, filed suit against Butte County in federal court June 21, alleging a slew of violations to his civil rights.

The charges stem from a yearlong undercover surveillance of the club and a subsequent raid there, on March 10, 2001. County law enforcement officers maintain that they raided the club (after surveilling the place with undercover sheriff’s deputies for a year) only because they were convinced it was a hotbed of prostitution and drug dealing, and that a related massage parlor, Vanessa Andrews Studios, also dealt in prostitution.

Daylyn Presley, former owner of Vanessa Andrews Studios, denied any connection with the First Amendment Club at the time of the bust, but he’s named as a principle plaintiff in Williams’ lawsuit, also.

Both Williams and Presley, in their suit, allege that Butte County’s law enforcement and Board of Supervisors were “out to shut down [the First Amendment Club and Vanessa Andrews Studios] from the beginning … by an improper political motive to harass and intimidate the former owner and owner of two lawfully operating businesses in Butte County with the goal of forcing them to cease operating.”

Williams and Presley allege that after the raid their homes were “illegally ransacked” by sheriff’s deputies, and that they were detained without being read their Miranda rights. They also allege violations to their constitutional rights, unreasonable search and seizure, police harassment and intimidation, malicious abuse of process, violation of due process, and violations to their rights of free association and privacy.

Williams, who sold his share of the First Amendment Club less than a month after the raid, declined to comment on the case. His girlfriend, Rachel Gonzalez, was a dancer at the club and also managed Vanessa Andrews Studios. She was arrested after the raid for pimping and prostitution.

Williams and Presley have vehemently denied that there was prostitution at either the strip club or Vanessa Andrews Studios, but the district attorney’s investigation report on the case vividly disputes that claim. In their report to D.A. Mike Ramsey, investigators reported standing outside Vanessa Andrews Studios’ windows and witnessing women take money for sex and sex acts.

While they didn’t report finding dancers taking money for sex at the First Amendment Club, investigators last summer arrested a dozen exotic dancers there anyway, for allowing customers to touch them while on stage, charging them with prostitution. Those cases are still languishing in court.

“These are incidents where the customers gave the performers money to have them put their breasts and genitals directly in their faces,” Ramsey said last summer, when the charges were filed. “That’s prostitution, and that’s illegal.”

The First Amendment Club is now under new management and called Centerfolds.