Kansas prosecutor's strip-club scandal leads to dropped charges

COLUMBUS, Kan. | Felony burglary and theft charges were dropped against twin sisters whose cases languished while then-prosecutor Michael Goodrich was being investigated for extortion at a strip club.

Earlier this month, Cherokee County Attorney John Bullard also dismissed a felony property damage charge against the 37-year-old women, Birdie Jo Hoaks and Becky Jo Hoaks, because nothing had been done in their cases and the two had moved away from the area.

The sisters were accused of breaking into the Galena Assembly of God church on Nov. 6, 2006, and stealing a safe containing $2,400 from an associate pastor's office.

In 2004, they were accused of plotting to enroll Birdie Hoaks at Galena Middle School, where she posed as a 13-year-old boy. Felony theft charges in that case were dismissed in 2005.

Birdie Hoaks has 12 convictions in seven states. Her attorney, Eddie Battitori, said his client might have benefited from Goodrich's legal problems.

"It certainly didn't hurt her situation," Battitori said. "The main thing is the victims decided they didn't want to pursue it. That's more of it than anything."

Goodrich, of Baxter Springs, was sentenced Jan. 5 to a year and a day in federal prison. When he pleaded guilty in June to a single federal count of extortion, Goodrich acknowledged that he received money and other perks from the owner of Sensations Gentlemen's Club in Galena from January 2005 to September 2007. In return, he dismissed traffic tickets and other costs.

The Hoaks burglary and theft cases were assigned to a special prosecutor on July 26, 2007, while the FBI was investigating Goodrich. Three months later, a different prosecutor was assigned to the Birdie Hoaks case, and in December 2007 Bullard took office after Goodrich resigned.

Nothing else happened in the Hoaks cases until Jan. 9, when Bullard filed motions to dismiss the charges. He noted that considerable time had passed since the charges were filed, the two had moved away from the area, costs to prosecute the cases didn't justify further action and the victim was not seeking to pursue the case.

"It had languished before I ever took office," Bullard said. "It was very stale when I took over. It was another one put away and forgotten."

He added: "Nobody knew who was prosecuting the case."

A previous charge of felony credit card theft against Becky Hoaks was dismissed in Jasper County, Mo., even though authorities said she was caught on video using a stolen credit card at an ATM.

In 1995, Birdie Hoaks was sentenced to probation in Salt Lake City after showing up just before Christmas 1994 and claiming to be an abused and abandoned 13-year-old boy. The story led to an outpouring of donations from the community.

Bullard said he hopes the sisters don't appear in the news for some new crimes they have committed elsewhere, but said he wouldn't be surprised if they did.