By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
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By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
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"Anthony has been in jail for more than 15 months, and a judge hasn't even heard his case yet!" she scoffs. "Last week we were supposed to have a hearing, but there was no running water in Panama City. So the translator said she couldn't take a shower, didn't show up, and the case was delayed."
McDonald has succeeded, however, in chipping away at the case, persuading a judge three weeks ago to drop the trafficking charge on a technicality. (Panama passed harsher penalties for human trafficking during Galeota's incarceration, but Galeota can't be prosecuted under laws that weren't in place when he was arrested.)
The narcotics charge, however, still stands despite little evidence linking Galeota to the drugs. McDonald expects those will be dismissed as well, but not for months. "No one can tell us how long he will be in there," she says. "That's the problem."
If Galeota is freed, it will be a major blow for Panama's prostitution crackdown. New laws effectively outlaw brothels such as the Doll House, permit or not — but if Galeota walks with no convictions, it will surely embarrass officials trying to make it look like they're cleaning up the industry.
"The investigation was so poorly handled and rushed," says Otero, the journalist. "They had what seemed like a dynamite case, but it has ended up in pieces."
Galeota believes that his arrest has little to do with a renewed commitment to the law in Panama. Instead, he says competitors pulled government strings to screw him.
"Their connections were bigger than ours," he says.
Indeed, Havana Club has already reopened. But the Doll House and Moulin Rouge remain closed. A sign on the latter reads, "District Attorney for Drugs: Do Not Enter." Inside, the bar is still littered with half-empty bottles of Chivas Regal. A poster on the wall advertises "Lesby Show: 2 Girls per Person" for $350.
Back in South Florida, Kristy Galeota vacillates between outrage and empathy for her husband. By now, she knows of his many infidelities, including that he lived and slept with some of the girls at the Doll House.
"I don't care how strong you are; that's going to affect your marriage," she says. But she insists that her husband's imprisonment has brought them closer. "I wouldn't leave a dog in that prison, let alone my husband."
Galeota is not exactly repentant. Although he admits that "running around whoring and casinoing wasn't worth it," he can't promise to be faithful to the woman who has stood beside him. "That's the goal," is all he'll offer.
"My wife can say she has regrets, but that's bullshit," he says. "She hasn't worked for 15 years. We had a $500,000 house, cars, and motorcycles. We traveled all the time. I gave each of my kids a Rolex when they were 5 years old. This business has been very good to me."
Has a stint in Panamanian prison reformed Miami's most notorious strip club manager? As he contemplates the question, Galeota watches his fellow inmates kick a soccer ball across La Joya's putrid playground.
Galeota may not be a good man, but he is brutally honest.
"There is no rehabilitation here," he says. "My wife is never going to completely trust me. We both understand that."
As for his career, his only oath is that he won't let his sons follow his example.
"I want to go legit when I get out, but if the economy is bad, I might go back to the industry," he says. "I've been in this business my whole life. I'm kind of stuck with it."