With a cloud of dust and a hearty "Hi-yo sovereign immunity," Northampton County Assistant District Attorney James Augustine came galloping to the rescue of four damsels in distress.
Sadly, a happy Hollywood ending to the episode was spoiled this week when the members of a jury — all wearing black hats, I bet — unanimously concluded that if somebody wants to charge somebody else $7,400 for something, there ought to be a receipt somewhere.
Therefore, after nearly four months in the county calaboose, Robert L. Tostevin Jr., of Allentown, was turned loose to roam the range once more.
This came after he was accused of stiffing a Bath strip joint, formerly called the Tattletales North club (now The Fox), for $7,400 after running up a huge tab involving private sessions with four "exotic dancers" in just three days.
Before we get to the details of the drama in Northampton County Court, we must turn to other breaking news.
There was a nationwide kerfuffle a few years back over disclosures that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had paid around $1,000 an hour for, um, adult entertainment, running up a pretty hefty tab of his own.
That resulted in his departure from office, but this week, Spitzer announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for New York City comptroller. If nominated, his most notable opponent may be the Libertarian Party's candidate, the former madam who once catered to his off-duty needs with what she said were "hundreds" of women.
You have to love New York politics. It seems that nobody even cares who the Republican candidate might be.
Getting back to the courthouse in Easton, news accounts said Assistant DA Augustine went after Tostevin by putting four strippers on the stand to say they accommodated his needs in the Tattletales joint's "champagne room." The strippers are Tracy Selner of Pen Argyl, Megan Decker of Effort, Lori Williams of Brodheadsville and Elizabeth Cwynar of Easton.
That room, it was reported, is usually used for naked exotic dancers to entertain individual customers in private, including "lap dances," the descriptive details of which I'll skip for the time being.
In Tostevin's case, both sides asserted that the women remained clothed and they and he mainly talked about the various problems he was having in life — and he put the champagne room charges on his debit card over that three-day period last July.
At one point, Judge Emil Giordano asked Augustine whether any of the strippers had "a psychology degree." Medical credentials, I suppose, might justify the kinds of charges that roll into a $7,400 bottom line on a debit card, although Tostevin said he thought he was getting socked only $100 at a time.
When Tostevin saw how much he was charged, he complained to his bank, which checked into it. When the club could not produce any receipts, it was reported, the bank refused to pay.
Nevertheless, Augustine perceived the crime of "theft of services," took the dispute into criminal court and relied on the testimony of Dr. Selner, Dr. Decker, Dr. Williams and Dr. Cwynar to justify the expenditure of oodles of taxpayer money to go after Tostevin. At one point, it was reported, Augustine compared the strippers to the legal profession, the members of which are often expected to get paid as much as medical doctors. That compelled the judge to interrupt.
"Oh please, you're not going to equate adult entertainers with lawyers," Giordano scolded Augustine.
On past occasions, I've had mainly nice things to say about Giordano, but I must find fault with the implications of that statement. If adult entertainers are compared to lawyers, and if the lawyers are contingency-fee types, I feel it's the adult entertainers who are being insulted.
Anyway, jury members somehow injected a little sanity into the billing disagreement and took around two hours to find Tostevin not guilty.
We need not worry that the verdict will cause any discomfort for Augustine. Under sovereign immunity laws, prosecutors cannot be held accountable in civil court for anything they do to the targets of their prosecutions, no matter what.
Also, I must confess I'm discussing all this with scant personal knowledge or expertise when it comes to the kind of high-end adult entertainment favored by big spenders like Spitzer and Tostevin.
I did get thrown out of a strip joint one time, but that involved an admission fee of only $7, and that $7 was returned to me. (It happened in 1990 when the proprietors of Erv's BYO Gentleman Gentlemen's Club in Allentown spotted me taking notes for the purpose of writing a column.)
Also, I once proudly wore a Heidi Fleiss T-shirt signed by the famous Los Angeles madam herself. "Paul … Love … Heidi Fleiss," she wrote. (That was a jocular present from my daughter, whose office was in a building where Fleiss had a boutique.) Soon, my T-shirt mysteriously disappeared. My wife insists she did not throw it away, but I have my suspicions.
I think I'll try to get a new T-shirt and keep it under lock and key, as soon as I can scrape up an extra $7,400 for one.
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.