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Untangle the Judge Nottingham sex-for-hire story with some required Westword reading.

Say it ain't so, Naughty!
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Things don’t look good for the Sheriff of Naughty-ham.

The Denver-based Chief Federal Judge Edward Nottingham is in serious hot water now that 9NEWS has revealed that the Justice Department and the FBI are looking into allegations that he told a former prostitute to lie to investigators about a past pay-for-sex rendezvous. Now the man known as the “Sheriff of Nottingham” to lawyers and “Judge Naughty” to high-priced hookers is expected to resign from his powerful post according to 9News and the Rocky Mountain News -- although the Denver Post reported last week that Nottingham hadn't made up his mind yet.

The most interesting tidbit in the 9NEWS story, however, is that the ex-prostitute says she made sexy-time with Nottingham from 2003 to 2004 while working for a former escort agency called Bada Bing.

But, wait. The entire investigation started in January after the IRS raided the headquarters of the escort agency known as Denver Players/Denver Sugar, kicking off a grand jury inquiry. So what does Bada Bing have to do with Denver Players/Denver Sugar?

For this we must reach into the Westword Wayback machine.

First, check out David Holthouse’s 2004 feature article on Bada Bing, then the premier escort provider in Denver run by escort-turned-madam “Veronika Lake.” Holthouse wrote:

Veronika works hard. She puts in twelve-hour days, seven days a week. By her own estimate, she answers between fifty and a hundred work-related phone calls each day and makes that many calls of her own. She's a tough boss. She drug-tests her employees. (Bada Bing girls are allowed to drink with clients, but only if the client suggests it. Illegal drugs are absolutely forbidden.) She fines them for calling in late ($25) and standing up a client ($200). But she is also generous. She offers employee benefits, including health insurance and car financing at low interest rates. Once a girl has worked for Bada Bing for a full year, Veronika buys her a round-trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world. And she offers her girls a 70-30 cut, in their favor, on the money they bring in, when the industry standard is 50-50. "I demand excellence," she says, "and I reward excellence."

Holthouse’s story also included photographs of escorts and clients frolicking at a Halloween-themed “meet-and-greet” at the Denver Tech Center. The ensuing uproar within the local escort industry forced Bada Bing to close up shop. This left the playing field open for another agency, Colorado Companions -- owned by Gary Haney, a former magazine publisher -- to emerge as the top outfit in town for super-hot and super-pricy escorts. Haney was also the subject of a Westword feature story, "Big Trouble," written by yours truly in 2006, while the so-called “big daddy” of Denver’s escort scene was in jail for beating up one of his female employees. Here's an excerpt:

According to a police report, Haney had called a female employee to the residence two nights earlier and accused her of "conducting professional business on the side and therefore taking money from him." He then struck the woman on the head multiple times with a baseball bat and repeatedly punched her in the head, body and back. But he avoided hitting her in the face.

The woman told police that Steve Papson, Haney's business colleague and the owner of the house, began to close doors and windows so that her screams wouldn't wake the neighbors. Papson then took her purse into a bedroom while Haney removed $560 from her jacket pocket, telling her that she owed him $5,000 more for all of the calls she had stolen. Haney threatened to kill her and her daughter if she went to the police, the woman reported.

Haney’s meth addiction led to the downfall of Colorado Companions, allowing one of his protégés, Scottie Ewing, to take over king status with his agency Denver Players/Sugar. A former professional skier, Ewing, too, has appeared in the pages of Westword, this time in a story about warring swinger clubs in Denver.

An uplifting image from the former Denver Sugar site.

In 2005, Denver Players/Sugar was purchased by Brenda Stewart under the company name Phoenix Media and Consulting, LLC. Herself a former escort, Stewart went by “Katrina Carter,” or simply “Carter,” to staff and associates. From a blog earlier this year:

At any given time, twenty or more women were employed by Denver Players/Sugar as escorts in cities throughout the Front Range, and in Aspen and Vail. The now defunct website www.denversugar.com featured online profiles for women like “Juvel,” described as a “sensual Latina with a sexy accent…slender with silky sweet skin and gorgeous long legs.” The going rate for one hour of “all-inclusive companionship” was $300 or more. The company had a reputation as one of the most professional and fair-minded toward escorts in the industry, often advertising its status as “female owned and operated” in recruitment ads published in various publications, including Westword.

Attracting the top escorts meant that Denver Players/Sugar attracted the top patrons, including sports stars, politicians and other important figures. So when the IRS confiscated computers and other documents in late January as part of a grand jury tax evasion case, there was much speculation about powerful men being exposed as clients.

The most important -- and dangerous -- aspect of a successful escort operation is the database of clients and contacts. This key to the kingdom is usually only passed on when one operator wants to cash out of the business and sells his list to another, which may be the trail that authorities followed back to Bada Bing.

But so far the grand jury has yet to produce a single indictment. Nottingham was only exposed, so to speak, after information leaked out about his name appearing on a client list seized during the raid. Though publicly embarrassing, the disclosure that Nottingham may or may not have spent thousands of dollars on hookers was not going to result in him getting arrested or fired. Obstructing justice by telling a potential witness to lie, on the other hand, is something different entirely. Very naughty indeed. -- Jared Jacang Maher

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