When Attorneys Attack

Another Seattle nightclub owner dodges bullets—and then the crossfire of rival gangs of lawyers.

IT'S JUST ONE crossfire after another for mild-mannered Scott Koh. First there were the shootings. Then came the dueling attorneys. "Oh my god, I was so scared," says Koh—referring to the attorneys. He's been under heavy pressure from City Hall to change or close the International District club he co-owns, following the recent shootings. So Koh this month hired Seattle club attorney Dave Osgood to face off against assistant city attorney Shelley Hickey. Boom! "I suddenly realized," says Koh, who opened the Standard Cafe at Sixth Avenue and Main Street last summer, "these two people hate each other!"

If that's true, Hickey, for one, isn't talking. But, speaking for her, city attorney special assistant Kathryn Harper notes, "Shelley is a dedicated public servant who continues to work hard for this city in the face of David's public vilification and accusations of racism." For his part, Osgood says there's still blood in the water after he beat the city and state out of $1.2 million earlier this year in a settlement over Oscar's II restaurant on East Madison Street, which had been shut down for alleged drug activity. Osgood called that a violation of black owner Oscar McCoy's constitutional rights. Osgood didn't like Hickey then, "and I am a little ticked off that she's trying to intimidate my clients out of allowing me to represent them now," he says.

INTO THIS CONSIDERABLE breach stepped Koh, 36, born in South Korea and co-owner of several Seattle eateries. When the gang shootings started in November and police put the squeeze on his club, he says, "I was hoping the cops don't come and get me. It was amazing to me they were shaking me down." Or rather, harassing him about possible gang members who came to his classy, low-lighted second-floor club. They arrived uninvited for Asian Night on Saturdays at the Standard, home of weeknight jazz and the curry burger. "Three shootings in three consecutive weeks," says the city's Harper, "creates a serious situation that cannot be ignored. When gunshots are fired, SPD responds. Period." Actually, two shootings, says Koh, the first Nov. 16 a block away. One man (who might or might not have been a Standard patron) was shot in the leg after a fight. The next week, Standard security workers barred entry to some patrons, who then threatened to "smoke" the guards and were arrested. On Nov. 30, after a friend of one of the arrested men asked Koh to drop the charges—he wouldn't—a drive-by shooter put a slug above the Standard's door while Koh was standing outside. Koh took all the right precautions, he thought, including hiring off-duty police (who were later pulled off the job by the city, says Koh). "People ask, close us? Wait a minute, aren't you the victims?" he says.

Enter the dreaded Osgood. "The owners call me in a panic," he says. "What are they doing wrong? They have zero tolerance for gang members. They have a dress code. They take action, they prosecute, they get threatened, they get shot at—and they get told they'll be closed down?" Hickey, he says, "tells them they have to close for a month on Saturday nights. She's under the belief it's a hip-hop club. It's Top 40. Shelley was [former City Attorney] Mark Sidran's abatement attorney—she did Oscar's, and the Iguana Cantina, which was settled at the last minute. When the Standard's owners tell her they hired me, she goes through the roof. She says she can't work with me, and if they don't shut down she'll shut them down. She says they're bringing in the Asian ghetto. The week after that, the cops swamped the block. The owners documented 34 police stops or walk-bys. It was harassment." City spokesperson Harper says police have "been happy to speak with" Koh and assist him. Still, "We do not understand David Osgood's seeming insistence on trying to elevate this situation into an 'Oscar's II.'"

OSGOOD MIGHT nonetheless be the Standard's catalyst. Last week, Hickey and two West Precinct commanders met with Koh, and Osgood recently met with City Attorney Tom Carr. Koh and Osgood are cautiously optimistic. Spokesperson Harper says, "I understand that it was a conciliatory meeting all around and that communications and recommendations will remain ongoing." The city is not planning to abate the business or file suit, she says. As for Osgood, she says, "He is not proving himself to be part of the solution here." Says Osgood: "I do what I do. It usually works."


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