By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
There are many ways to discover you're being robbed, but what could be worse than realizing it while you're in the middle of drunken intercourse?
With the bandit's girlfriend?
And the bandit—also intoxicated—has found your Beretta handgun?
Welcome to the real world of Nora Hartman, the broke, veteran stripper; Dustin Goepner, her frisky young boyfriend; and a wealthy, if foolish, Orange County entrepreneur we'll call "Jack" to save him further embarrassment. To that combustible mix, add heaping helpings of booze, horniness and greed. Give it all a stir, and you'll have a crime in no time.
On May 16, 2005, Hartman and Goepner were looking for a victim. At Angel's strip club in Anaheim, they found 45-year-old Jack, a man who insists, "I always wear a suit"; drives a fleet of expensive cars; flashes fat wads of cash in front of poor folks; and wears bracelets, rings and a watch worth as much as a new car. Jack's wife had died a few months earlier, and he was looking for love—well, okay, sex.
Hartman, whom Jack had met for a prior one-night stand, seemed to fit the bill. She smiled at him when she stripped onstage and smiled even bigger when he repeatedly tipped her $20. She told co-workers that the man seemed "filthy rich."
After her shift, Hartman complimented Jack's eyes. She said she sympathized with his loss. Never mind that Hartman wasn't a scintillating conversationalist or that she inhaled the chicken fingers and rum and coke he bought her, Jack liked what he saw.
Several pitchers of beer into the evening, Jack met a man who introduced himself as Ryan and said he worked in construction. Ryan was actually Goepner, a 25-year-old convicted burglar. He told Jack he was interested in doing a cement job for him. But he quietly explained to his friends at the strip bar that he planned to rob Jack.
Hartman would later tell Jack (and police) that she loved him, that she didn't mean for their relationship to go sour so quickly, that she felt much in common with him. She acknowledged that she desperately needed cash for rent and food, yet she claimed she was merely a confused accessory after the crime. In reality, Hartman had known of Goepner's plan: She had been the one who'd insisted Goepner join them at Jack's home in Orange.
Eventually, the trio ended up nude on Jack's home sofa. While Hartman orally pleasured Jack, Goepner was on his knees behind her. He eventually ejaculated and left the room. Hartman then jumped on top of Jack. When he heard suspicious sounds, he told Hartman. She called him paranoid and smothered him in kisses. But more noises worried Jack.
"What the hell is going on?" he'd recall asking.
He tried to disengage. However, Hartman increased her sexual rhythm. Jack came, but his evening with the duo hadn't reached its climax.
Jack ran upstairs to his bedroom. What he found missing included his suit pants, his Beretta, a wallet with $5,000 in cash, a $2,500 gold bracelet, a $6,000 22-carat diamond ring, and the keys to his silver Ferrari as well as his $150,000 Mercedes-Benz. Jack grabbed his AK-47, crouched down and looked down a flight of stairs, where he saw Goepner pointing a gun at his face.
"Don't even think about it," Goepner yelled. "I will shoot you if you come down. I am leaving."
Jack ducked, still oblivious to the con game. He worried about Hartman's safety and called out her name after he heard someone start his Mercedes and drive away. There was no answer. When the police arrived, Jack was still cussing. It took detectives no time to make arrests.
At trial last year, police revealed that the incident with Jack hadn't been the duo's inaugural three-way-sex-and-rob game. Weeks before Jack, they'd found another horny, unsuspecting victim at Fuzzy Bear's strip club in Stanton. Hartman—then 43 years old and a single mother of several children—kept the man busy while Goepner stole the guy's wallet.
After a 2006 trial, Goepner got 25 years in prison for robbery, burglary and carjacking. David Dziejowski, Hartman's public defender, told a jury his client was not "some sort of criminal sex kitten." The jury didn't buy it. Her sentence is five years.
Until a week ago, Hartman hoped she'd win a new trial. She claimed her conviction at the hands of Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant was tainted. The logic? The jury should have included three black women who were also poor, single mothers. (Hartman is not African-American.) Bryant had used pretrial, peremptory challenges to remove two of the women from the panel.
In late June, the Santa Ana-based California Court of Appeal rejected Hartman's argument. The conviction was righteous, they ruled. Though she'd hoped to return to a stripper's stage and take "steps to improve my life as a mom," she's going to continue living in a Chowchilla prison cell.