Carlos Morales Won $66,000 from Showgirls Strip Club, So Why Is He Picketing Downtown?

If you walk past the Miami-Dade County courthouse this week, you'll probably see a clean-cut Cuban in slacks, a dress shirt, and rimless glasses. Carlos Morales will be holding a large white sign with black lettering that reads, "Judge Victoria Platzer does not represent justice, only the will of the insurance company."

You might assume Morales is just another South Florida foreclosure victim. Ask him his story, though, and you'll realize your mistake.

"I was at this strip club," Morales explains in Spanish, pulling out a binder. He opens it to a large, glossy photo of his bloody, swollen face. A more gruesome pic shows his left ankle with a six-inch surgical cut. "The bouncer attacked me."

Morales's legal fight began October 4, 2009, when he visited Showgirls, a club in Cutler Bay where the Snapper Creek Expressway meets South Dixie Highway. Morales was sipping a drink when a stripper started chatting him up. When his eyes kept falling on her bare breasts, she told him to go ahead and touch them, Morales claims. "That's what they do to get you to pay for a private dance," he says.

Instead of paying up, however, Morales went to the toilet. Bad decision.

A bouncer followed him. "What the fuck are you doing with my girl?" the bouncer asked before allegedly punching Morales. When two more bouncers joined the fray, Morales says, he was thrown through the bathroom partition. His shoulder was dislocated and his left ankle was shattered.

But when cops arrived, the bouncers claimed Morales had been caught stealing perfume. He was charged with battery and attempted theft. The theft charge was dropped, and a judge allowed Morales to attend anger management classes to avoid the battery rap. Yet the incident cost him his job. His ankle required surgery.

Morales sued Showgirls a few weeks later. This past January, a jury awarded him $56,085.31. Judge Platzer tacked on another $10,000 for future physical suffering.

But Morales isn't satisfied. He wanted $500,000 and thinks he would have gotten it had the judge and his lawyer, Alan Anchell, done their jobs. "They hid evidence and manipulated the jury," he claims.

Anchell insists he did his best for Morales. Meanwhile, Platzer says she cannot comment on an open case.

Showgirls co-owner Michael Laughlin claims Morales started the fight and is lying about it to extort the club. "Carlos Morales has this grand story," he says, "but my guys did not go in there and beat him up."

(He adds that Morales was the only one charged in the fight and that the jury found him -- not the strip club -- 60 percent responsible.)

Morales plans to complain to the Florida Bar about the lawyer and the judge, and to file for an appeal.

His one-man picket line continues ...

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.