A Pierce County judge today permanently blocked the disclosure of names, addresses and phone numbers of more than 200 dancers for a Parkland strip club to a Pierce County Jail inmate.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled that Jane Doe, who filed the lawsuit, and other dancers have “a very reasonable fear” that the release of their license applications could put them at risk of abuse by Robert Hill, a controversial Tacoma figure with three felony convictions.
“Would a person have some reasonable concerns that release of the information to a person with Robert Hill’s history could harm them?” Culpepper said. “Yes, of course they would.”
Culpepper said the public has “legitimate interest” in who’s working at strip clubs and dancers’ backgrounds. But he cited invasion of privacy as a legal reason for exempting the applications from public disclosure to Hill.
“This is clearly a case where some protection is deserved,” Culpepper said.
Jane Doe testified she was concerned for her safety after the Pierce County Auditor’s office notified her that Hill had requested her application for dancing at DreamGirls at Fox’s in Parkland. Her lawyer then obtained a temporary injunction blocking the release of her information.
“I was worried for my safety and my identity,” Jane Doe said. “He’s a criminal and he doesn’t need to have my information.”
Hill represented himself and questioned her by speaker phone from jail. Hill objected he wasn’t allowed to appear in court. But Culpepper said the jail doesn’t transport inmates for a civil case.
Hill asked in May 2012 for color photos of adult entertainers who had applied for licenses so far that year. The next month, Hill returned a photo of one dancer and requested a copy of her application.
Hill peppered Jane Doe with questions for more than an hour, asking repeatedly to what extent she had researched his convictions and background.
Jane Doe, dressed in brown top and black sweater, was visibly frustrated by the detailed questioning. She put her hand on her forehead, and mouthed the word “wow” when Hill pressed her.
At one point, Hill asked how many times she searched for online information on him using Google. Hill asked if it’s fair to conclude she didn’t do enough research to reach the conclusion he posed a risk to her safety.
She replied firmly, “No.”
Hill is jail serving time for malicious mischief in the third degree and three counts of fourth-degree assault. His other convictions include intimidating a judge, criminal trespassing and criminal assault. He is due to be released April 15.
Hill cited a number of reasons for wanting Jane Doe’s and other dancers’ information. Under questioning by Jane Doe’s lawyer, Sean Small, Hill said he wants to make adult entertainment dancers stars through his social media consulting business. He also said he is a sex education advocate and wants to overturn by referendum tougher regulations that Pierce County imposed on strip clubs.
“In order for me to lobby the dancers, I have to be able to communicate with them,” Hill said. “I’m an advocate for the industry.””
Culpepper said if dancers want Hill’s help, they can contact him. “If they want him to advocate for them, they can always get to him on his Internet site,” Culpepper said.
Small declined comment after the trial.
Piece County took no position on the dancers’ injunction request.
“The position of the auditor’s office has always been we will follow any court order,” said deputy prosecutor Cort O’Connor. “We will follow the law.”