Because, from this day forward, when lawyers gather at one of those posh Brickell Avenue watering holes for an after-work cocktail, Coffey knows his name won't come up when someone asks the question: "What's the dumbest thing a lawyer ever did in a strip club in Miami with a credit card?"
Last week, the answer to that question was, indeed, Kendall Coffey.
That honor now belongs to Miami DUI and traffic ticket attorney Mark Gold.
If you haven't heard by now, Gold has filed suit against a Miami strip club for getting him sloppy drunk and then allegedly loading his credit card with almost $19,000 in charges.
Unless Coffey's been living under a rock foir the past few days, he's no doubt heard of Gold's story.
I don't know Coffey personally, but I'm very sure his jaw tightens a bit when he hears the words "credit card," "stripper" and "strip club" mentioned in the same sentence.
Fifteen years ago, he was caught up in a sordid incident involving a stripper and a $900 bottle of champagne...paid for with a credit card. And there was a bizarre twist.
From the Miami Herald, May 18, 1996:
U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey resigned Friday, a day after The Herald reported that he was under internal investigation for allegedly biting a topless dancer on the arm.Fernandez would later regret making that statement.
Coffey , South Florida's top federal law enforcement officer, said he will step down on May 31.
"The decision to leave is the most painful and difficult choice of my life," Coffey said Friday. "But leave I must,
because my family has already paid too great a price for the sacrifices that accompany public service. And, with the allegations recently raised and pending, I now have concerns about the possible impact on the important work of my office."
"We're all the victims of our individual foibles," said Tom Cash, former Drug Enforcement Administration chief in Miami. "The secret is to take responsibility, which Mr. Coffey certainly is doing. This is the best move for him."
Rumors and a probe
Coffey 's resignation comes after an intensive investigation by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General. For months, Miami's legal community has buzzed with rumors about Coffey biting a topless dancer.
Coffey refused to address the rumors directly, and his office issued strong denials that he had even entered a topless bar.
"This office seizes places like that," Coffey 's spokesman, Wilfredo Fernandez, said in March. "The idea that he would even go into a place like that is ridiculous."
Kendall Coffey had indeed, been inside the strip club and there was a credit card receipt to prove it.
From the Herald story:
Coffey entered the Lipstik club at 8099 S. Dixie Hwy. about midnight on Feb. 22, a Thursday. He came alone, driving himself.Within hours of the incident, Coffey's father drove to the club and paid about $1,200 in cash to retrieve the receipt.
Coffey 's home is not far from the club.
In the club, Coffey struck up a conversation with [Tamara] Gutierrez, who is considered one of the best-looking dancers and a favorite of VIPs who visit the club.
At the bar, Coffey purchased a $900 magnum of Dom Perignon champagne, the equivalent of two regular bottles, and $200 in " Lipstik money," which is used to pay the dancers for private sessions. The club does not permit "lap-dancing."
Coffey paid with his American Express card. In accordance with club policy, he presented his Florida driver license to verify his identity.
Coffey and the dancer eventually retired to the club's private "champagne room," which features two C-shaped couches and a platform where the dancers can perform for customers.
A big case lost
In the champagne room, Coffey and the dancer sat on one of the couches. Coffey lamented losing a big case. Exactly a week earlier, Coffey 's prosecutors were shocked when a Miami jury acquitted Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta, who had been charged with importing more cocaine than any other defendants in U.S. history.
"He was not discreet," a source said. "He used his name. He flashed around his ID."
Coffey drank his champagne and pressed his body onto the dancer. He also gave her small, affectionate bites.
He tried to kiss her on the lips. She turned away. He grabbed her, pulled her back and bit her hard on the left upper arm, breaking the skin and drawing blood, the sources said.
She screamed, attracting one of the club's bouncers, who, with the night manager, ejected Coffey .
Because Coffey was visibly drunk, they called him a cab, sources said.
In the parking lot outside the club, Coffey refused to get inside the cab. The bouncer loaded Coffey into the cab head- first.
It wasn't long before rumors started swirling. And it was just a matter of time before the Herald got wind of the incident. An investigation followed and Coffey was forced to resign.
The day after that story ran in the Herald, Carl Hiaasen weighed in with his take:
Friends have smirkingly inquired if I scripted the sensational Lipstik affair that led to Friday's abrupt resignation by U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey .So, move over Kendall Coffey...your Stupid Strip Club Stunt has been eclipsed by Mark Gold.
The answer is no. In fact, I'm surprised he couldn't come up with a more literary way to wreck his career.
As everyone knows, a nude dancer says the prosecutor bit her on the arm at a South Dade adult club called Lipstik .
Curiously, I wrote a novel that begins with a prominent Democratic politician misbehaving badly in a South Florida strip joint. Suspense and hilarity ensue.
[L]et's talk about the champagne. In the novel, my drunk politician character picks up an empty champagne bottle and clobbers another customer in the bar.
In real life, Kendall Coffey did something even more outrageous with a champagne bottle: He bought it.
For $900! And he put it on his credit card! It's such an implausible scenario that even a gonzo hack like myself wouldn't try to sneak it past readers.
At many upscale strip clubs, customers are enticed to
purchase absurdly overpriced champagne with the lure of a secluded "table dance" by their favorite performer.
According to the Lipstik dancer Coffey took a fancy to, that's why he bought the bottle. Shortly thereafter, in a private room is when the alleged carnal gnawing occurred.
Picture this: You're the top law enforcement official in South Florida, a position demanding the utmost discretion, sobriety and prudence. Now, what are three sure-fire ways to get yourself noticed in a nudie bar?
(1) Buy a $900 bottle of champagne, something only a hapless sucker would do.
(2) Pay for it with a credit card, so there's an irrefutable record of your presence.
(3) Drink heavily, chew on a dancer and get yourself thrown out of the joint.
Not even in fiction could somebody be so dumb. At least in my novel, the horny politician had the brains to wear a disguise. Not the U.S. attorney.
But, I'm sure you won't be shedding any tears over losing your crown.