A magician's bad week
Gang bang party turns into giant clusterfuck
If there's a scapegoat in the Club Zinc sex-party bust, Jasen Ford is convinced he's it. He spent most of last week in jail, prosecutors are throwing the book at him, his face is being splashed across the papers and people he doesn't even know are cursing him for their legal woes. And all because he was trying to do a friend a favor.
Ford, 25, was among 115 people arrested July 27 when police raided the Midtown nightclub.
But he was surprised to find himself quickly singled out as an organizer of the evening's main event — a marathon display of sexual stamina involving a 29-year-old woman and about 10 guys — even though he kept his clothes on.
So far, Ford is the only person arrested at Club Zinc to face felony charges. He bailed out of jail only after posting a $45,000 bond.
Maybe police targeted him because they saw him hovering around the action as if he were in charge, he muses. Maybe it's because he brought along the 16-year-old girl who helped kick off the festivities by performing oral sex on the other woman. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because Ford runs a local social group with the charming name of Atlanta Gangbang.
Whatever the reason for his apparent persecution, it's been a trying ordeal for the Vegas-trained professional magician who, only two years ago, was performing sleight-of-hand for soon-to-be President George W. Bush.
Ford, who grew up in tiny Griffin, returned to Georgia in 2000 after working for six years as an up-and-coming illusionist in Las Vegas nightclubs. A veteran swinger, he last year launched Atlanta Gangbang, a Yahoo! chat group for folks whose sexual proclivities involve one woman taking on a roomful of guys.
Although the group gave him an outlet to express his fantasies, Ford says the real motivation behind it was "me finding a way to meet people."
The online venture was an instant hit, he says, eventually attracting 3,000 local members and spawning weekly gang bang parties, often held in Ford's condo in a prominent Midtown highrise.
Although the gang bang format appeals primarily to men, Ford insists there is no shortage of women asking to be "the girl of honor." Men who want to be considered for a certain gang bang submit their photos to the woman, who then selects those who'll be allowed to participate — typically around 10 — and sets reasonable ground rules.
About three months ago, Ford struck a deal with some online entrepreneurs who wanted to shoot video of the group's gang bangs and post the footage on a for-profit website, AtlantaGangbang.com.
In his day job, under his stage name Jasen Chadwick, Ford has been performing his magic act at trade shows, corporate events and area high schools. This past December, he entertained homeless children at City Hall on behalf of Mayor Bill Campbell. The year before that, he accepted an invitation to donate his talents to a Bush fund raiser in Texas, where he says he chatted with the then-governor.
All was going well for Ford until he got a call from an acquaintance who said he was trying to line up local swingers groups for a sex party at a new nightclub. Ford put the word out to his membership, and Club Zinc, in its e-mailed invitations, announced that "Atlanta Gangbang will be throwing a real live gang bang with 10 guys and two girls."
Volunteering to be the object of the merriment was Amanda Jones, a Cumming woman who, under the nom de guerre "Shine," had participated in several Ford-hosted parties. The night of the Club Zinc event, as the chosen guys queued up to take their turns, a fully clothed 16-year-old girl made her way to the stage, went down on the naked Jones and then stepped back to let the gang bang begin.
At about 11 p.m., Atlanta police officers — "dressed in full SWAT gear like on Cops," notes one witness — burst into the club, ordered everyone to their knees and began zip-tying patrons together with plastic cords.
Only then, Ford says, did he discover that the teenage girl, whom he describes as a friend and gave a lift to the club, is only 16. In addition to a laundry list of misdemeanors, he's charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, a felony that could fetch up to 30 years in prison.
In a quirk of Georgia law, which sets the age of consent at 16, having sex with a 16-year-old is not a crime, but showing that same teenager a sexually explicit image or enticing him or her to commit a sex act is a felony. Just last month, the same law was used to put two Atlanta pimps away for at least 30 years.
The dozen or so Club Zinc patrons who were caught undressed were charged with public indecency, based on prosecutors' contention that the party was not a private event, despite a sign in the window to the contrary. The fact that several undercover officers who paid the $25 cover were allowed inside would seem to undermine the privacy defense.
Everybody else was cited with disorderly conduct for being in a place where alcohol was being served illegally, since the club had no liquor license. Local sex attorney Alan Begner, who represents at least 40 of the club patrons, but not Ford nor club owners Richard Craven and David Havener, says that placing the burden of knowledge about a club's license status on customers will not stand up in court. And besides, he adds, police had no reason to ship the entire crowd off to jail.
"This is the dream case for an easy defense," Begner says. "We've got 100 potential civil rights cases ready to hit. My clients are livid at being arrested for doing nothing and considering legal action."
Similarly, Ford says he and his fellow gang bangers shouldn't be blamed for alleged mistakes made by the club's owners: failing to secure a business license, serving alcohol without a license, sponsoring sex in a public place.
"We weren't trying to run a business or make money; we're just swingers, you know," he says. "We just like to have sex."
He's concerned that the Club Zinc scandal has given the gang bang community a black eye. As for his own newfound public notoriety, Ford is understandably upset: "I feel raped."