Night club owner in Texas pleads guilty in hit man case

The owner of a topless club pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire charge Thursday stemming from a failed plot to kill a North Texas mayor and an attorney who were trying to crack down on such businesses.

Ryan Walker Grant's Flashdancer Cabaret is among the most visible adult businesses in Arlington, a city of 350,000 between Dallas and Fort Worth. He was arrested in April after authorities said an FBI sting caught him trying to hire a hit man who would receive $20,000 for the deaths of Mayor Robert Cluck and Tom Brandt, an attorney who does work for the city.

Grant, 34, could receive a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced Dec. 28. The resident of nearby Kennedale could have faced as much as 30 years in prison had the case gone to trial. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask that a charge of unlawfully transferring a firearm be dropped.

Grant's attorney, J. Warren St. John, said his client made statements about Cluck and Brandt out of frustration over how his club was being treated, but that he never intended to have anyone harmed. But evidence examined in recent weeks convinced Grant that he should take a plea, St. John said.

"Mr. Grant decided it would be in his best interest to accept responsibility and plead guilty," he said, declining to discuss the evidence.

According to court documents, Grant sought to hire the hit man through an intermediary who was a government informant, and the two spoke via cellphones and met at Grant's residence. The conversations came while Grant was embroiled in a dispute over his club with Arlington officials, who have cracked down on such enterprises as the city seeks to bolster its reputation as a tourist destination.

"Mr. Grant is not a bad person," St. John said. "He just made a very bad decision. Based on what I've learned about him, I don't think he wanted to act on that language."

A spokeswoman for Cluck said the mayor did not want to comment on Grant's plea.

Arlington officials have called Flashdancer Cabaret a nuisance, linking it to drugs, prostitution, assaults and other crimes. Grant agreed to close the club for a year last January, but the city has since sought to permanently shut it down by revoking its license.