Jury selection begins today in the trial of three former downtown Austin nightclub operators.
The Yassine brothers – Hussein, Hadi and Mohammed Yassine – were among ten people arrested in March on drug, weapon and money laundering charges. The Yassines, who operated several nightclubs including Spill, the pirate-themed bar Treasure Island, Kiss and Fly and more, have entered not guilty pleas.
The sensational nature of the charges – and the media attention they have attracted – are already a point of contention. The Austin American-Statesman, which notes that over 120 citizens were summoned to U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ courtroom to form the jury pool , writes:
Early questions focused on pre-trial publicity in the case, with Sparks asking prospective jurors if they’d been following coverage of the investigation, including a story that ran on the front page of today’s American-Statesman.
KVUE spoke to Stratfor vice president for intelligence Fred Burton, who predicted court proceedings would stretch out for some time. He added that “when the federal government gets their hooks into an organization such as this, this group is going to spend a long time behind bars, under the federal sentencing guidelines.”
One charge against the brothers’ company, Yassine Enterprises, has been settled: A class action lawsuit brought by several former employees of the Yassine’s bars, claiming they were stiffed on wages and tips. The Austin Chronicle reports that over the summer, Judge Sparks ordered the parties to reach an agreement, and the Yassines settled for $685,000.