Suspected Orange County pimp forced to appear in court

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

The man investigators said is the mastermind behind a suspected Orange County brothel that purportedly had two local politicians on its client list was forced to appear at his arraignment on Wednesday.

Mark Risner was arrested on prostitution and racketeering charges.

WFTV learned Mark Risner's attorney filed a waiver of appearance for his client last month, which typically means a suspect doesn't have to show up for the court appearance. However, Judge Alan Apte wouldn't accept the waiver, saying Risner never signed it.

When asked if the waiver of appearance was signed, Risner's attorney, Buck Blankner, responded, "I don't recall that we've ... In all of those we've ever filed over years, we've ever had the client sign one of those."

In court, Risner had nothing to say about the prostitution and racketeering charges or the technicality that forced him to appear in court.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it's highly unusual for a client to have to sign a waiver of appearance. Sheaffer said the documents are usually filed and signed by the attorney on behalf of their client.

In the end, Apte never said why he made Risner appear. Sheaffer said things don't add up, and Risner's attorneys could file a complaint with the state.

In the meantime, the brothel investigation has left two politicians in its wake.

Republican state Rep. Mike Horner dropped his re-election bid when investigators said his name was linked with the brothel client list, and Maitland councilman Phil Bonus has been under pressure to resign since investigators said his name was associated with the list.

"It would make it much easier for all of us, for his family and for the city if he resigns," said Maitland Mayor Howard Schieferdecker.

Bonus was also arrested last December after he refused to use a breathalyzer and failed a sobriety test during a traffic stop in Tampa, police said.

Investigators said they photographed prostitutes and the two men suspected of being pimps going in and out of Risner's home, which investigators said had a sex room with hidden cameras where the prostitutes serviced their clients.