Storey County commissioners on Friday unanimously decided to suspend a brothel license held by David Burgess, despite an offer by an official of the Nevada Brothel Association to take over the Old Bridge Ranch in northern Storey County.
Burgess, was convicted April 18 in Wyoming of possessing and transporting child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 7 in federal court in Cheyenne.
Burgess faces from five to 30 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson, according to the Associated Press.
Mark Picker, attorney for Burgess, asked the commission to consider an offer by Nevada Brothel Association lobbyist George Flint and association president Geoff Arnold to run the Old Bridge Ranch in receivership until the property can be sold. He said it was available for sale, four prospective buyers have expressed interest, and the business would be easier to sell if it was open.
The commission's decision effectively shuts down the brothel. Burgess has a right to a full hearing before the brothel commission, which includes the three commissioners and Sheriff Jim Miller.
Picker objected to the county being represented by special counsel Mark Gunderson, who has also represented the Wild Horse Brothel and the World Famous Mustang Ranch brothel, both run by Lance Gilman, a competitor of Burgess'.
He also said Burgess was not technically convicted until he is sentenced in July, though a jury did find him guilty.
"Under federal law he does not become convicted until a judge accepts the verdict at a sentencing hearing," he said. "That has not happened."
He said Ingrid Burgess, David Burgess' estranged wife, holds an interest in the brothel and suspending the license would have a negative impact on her.
Burgess has owned the brothel for more than 20 years, and has paid the county more than $100,000 a year in taxes during that time, Picker said. Suspending the license would put people in the street, and that Burgess was trying to sell the property. Closing the brothel would lower its value on the market, he added.
The commissioners were receptive to the option of someone else running the brothels, but said the ordinance didn't cover such an arrangement, and that it was not agendized to accept a receivership.
"I know from working in casinos how tough it is to see anyone out of a job," said Commissioner Bob Kershaw, who represents the district that includes the ranch. "I just don't know how we can avoid this."
Kershaw said he couldn't second-guess the jury in Wyoming, and the seriousness of the charges left the commissioners with no choice.
"We need to look at trying to find some sort of solution," said Commission Chairman Greg "Bum" Hess. "We have to try to get someone back in there so they can sell it. They've been there a long time."
Later Flint criticized the hiring of Mark Gunderson by the county as special counsel, saying he had opposed Burgess in court and represented Burgess' main competitor, Lance Gilman, owner of the Mustang Ranch and the Wild Horse Ranch brothels.
Gunderson said he was never the general counsel for Gilman, identifying Bonnie Drinkwater has having that role, though he admitted he had been hired to litigate copyright issues for the Wild Horse and Mustang owner, including a conflict with Burgess.
Ingrid Burgess appeared at the hearing with her 5-month-old daughter, Jayeson, and tearfully asked the commissioners not to suspend the license.
"We have all worked really hard," she said, her voice breaking. "I know David has been convicted for a very serious crime and you have to do what you think you have to do. I always did a good job running the business. This is all they have done, this is all they know, just like it's all I have done and all I know. I don't know any other way."
She said she gave turkeys away at Thanksgiving and Christmas, gave to the Fourth of July, Came Races and Community Chest, and all these would suffer with the closing of the brothel.
Maxine Hilke, one of about 10 prostitutes at the ranch attending the hearing, said she had endured the closing of the Mustang Ranch in the late 1990s, and it was too much for her to go through again.
• Contact Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-7351.