By Patrick M. Walker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram –
FORT WORTH, Texas — In a surprise move, the co-owner of an Arlington, Texas, strip club pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of trying to hire hit men to kill Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck and a contract attorney who handles cases involving adult businesses for the city.
Ryan Walker Grant, 34, co-owner of Flashdancer Cabaret, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge John McBryde at the Fort Worth federal courthouse. In exchange, prosecutors dropped an unrelated count of transferring a firearm to a known felon.
Grant, of Kennedale, Texas, is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 28. Assuming that the judge approves the plea deal, Grant will face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, half of what he would have faced if convicted on both counts.
Previously, Grant had maintained his innocence since his arrest April 9 and had pleaded not guilty at a hearing in late July. A trial date had been set for Sept. 24.
But on Thursday, Grant admitted to contacting an intermediary to hire men from Mexico to kill Cluck and Dallas lawyer Tom Brandt for $10,000 each. The intermediary was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency who recorded the meetings and phone calls they had.
Warren St. John, the Fort Worth attorney representing Grant, said his client had acted out of frustration over the health of his business after the city and the state brought a nuisance lawsuit against it. He said his client had not truly wanted harm to come to either man.
“He broke the law,” St. John said. “You can’t say those things. But nobody was ever going to be killed. He was talking to a confidential informant, so that’s impossible.”
Grant’s last meeting with the informant took place at Grant’s home April 9. Grant told the intermediary to give the go-ahead for Cluck’s killing to take place the next day. Federal agents raided his home and arrested him a few hours later.
Grant has been in federal custody since his arrest.
Flashdancer closed for a year in January under a settlement in the lawsuit brought by the city and the Texas attorney general’s office. Authorities cited the prevalence of drugs, prostitution and assaults at the club as the reason for labeling it a nuisance.
But even after the year had passed, the club was going to have a difficult time reopening because Police Chief Theron Bowman had revoked its sexually oriented business license on the grounds that dancers were allowing customers to touch them and that documents with misleading information had been filed with the city.
Grant told the intermediary that he wanted Cluck and Brandt killed for their roles in blocking his plans to reopen the club, federal authorities say. He said he stood to lose $800,000 a year.
Cluck’s office said Thursday that he “will not comment on this issue.”