Attorneys for the widow and children of a man who died at the Shotgun Willie’s strip club in Glendale three years ago have accused its owner of publicly leaking testimony from the deceased man’s mistress to soil his reputation before November’s wrongful death trial.
On Aug. 26, the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle reported that Chelsea Worthington, a local waitress, had given a sworn deposition 10 days before in which she described, in sexually explicit detail, her relationship with the late Randall Wright.
Worthington reportedly testified she was texting Wright about their sexual relationship just before he died. The waitress also said she and another mistress of Wright’s attended his funeral, according to the Chronicle. The deposition is not a public document.
Wright’s family said the article was planted by Shotgun Willie’s ownership. The club is majority-owned by Deborah Dunafon, wife of Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, and the city’s website says “Mayor Dunafon was instrumental in establishing (the) community-wide newspaper.” The mayor did not respond to a request for comment about the article.
“Defendants’ ambush tactic of dredging up alleged evidence of a purported affair from years before the incident is nothing more than an attempt to inflict emotional pain on the widow and children of Mr. Wright,” Lucas Lorenz, an attorney for the Wrights, wrote in a motion Friday asking that Shotgun Willie’s be penalized by the court for the deposition leak.
Steve Long, an attorney for the strip club, said, “I am totally unaware of any facts that would support such an outrageous allegation.”
Shotgun Willie’s security footage has been introduced in court as part of the lawsuit. BusinessDen has clipped the footage to highlight relevant scenes.
“It’s curious that counsel for the plaintiff who filed the motion has been, on a number of occasions, including on the day the case was filed, featured with his picture in Westword,” Long added, implying the Wright family’s attorneys have played to the press, not him.
Julie Hayden, the newspaper’s marketing director, said in an email that the mayor “has no role in running the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle” and sold his shares in the newspaper nearly 20 years ago. “He has not had any financial interest in the paper since then,” she said.
“If the defendants wanted to ‘taint the jury pool’ in Arapahoe County, they would have chosen another publication,” Hayden wrote, “because 95 percent of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle’s circulation is within the City and County of Denver.”
The article was written by Glen Richardson, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who calls his recurring column The Valley Gadfly. It typically focuses on arts and entertainment.
Wright, a 48-year-old Kroger executive, got into an altercation at Shotgun Willie’s on the night of May 2, 2019, that led him to chase another man through the club until Wright was tackled by bartender Derek Hendricks. He died a short time later. Wright’s family sued Hendricks and the club that year, claiming Hendricks used a chokehold. Hendricks denies that.
An eight-day trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 8 in Arapahoe County District Court. With it nearing, attorneys for both sides have filed a flurry of motions, most of which haven’t been ruled on by Judge Peter Michaelson. One exception is a request to let jurors see the club.
Frederick Bibik, an attorney for Hendricks, asked that during the trial jurors be allowed to take a field trip of sorts to Shotgun Willie’s while it’s closed. “The venue cannot be brought into the courtroom,” Bibik wrote Sept. 21, “but the jury can be brought into the venue.”
Michaelson granted the motion the next day, with precautions. Jurors will only have 30 minutes to tour the club and must ride in a separate vehicle from the judge and lawyers. Their driver and the lawyers can’t talk or signal to them during the drive or tour.
Most of the recent motions aim to prevent jurors from hearing information that one side doesn’t believe they should hear. The Wright family, for example, believes Worthington’s testimony about Randall Wright’s alleged extramarital affairs should be prohibited because it is irrelevant, will “emotionally inflame” the jury and “reduce the trial to a sideshow.”
The Wrights’ lawyers also believe Glendale Police Chief Joe Haskins should not be allowed to testify about the proper use of force or nightclub security because “Chief Haskins, by his own admission, is not a nightclub security standards expert or a use of force expert.”
Attorneys for the defendants — Hendricks and Shotgun Willie’s — want Michaelson to prohibit any mention of Hendricks and other Shotgun Willie’s employees drinking alcohol after work on the night Wright died because it’s irrelevant and could “mislead and confuse the jury.”
They also don’t want jurors to know that Hendricks was not disciplined by Shotgun Willie’s for the Wright incident or that there have been other fights at the club. They also want a ban on the word “homicide” to describe Wright’s death. A coroner determined Wright died by homicide, but Hendricks was not charged with that or any other crime.