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Fleiss gets her day in court

The names in the black book of reputed Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss will remain a mystery, at least for now, as her much-delayed state trial begins today.

She faces a maximum prison sentence of 12 years on state charges of selling cocaine and running a call-girl ring catering to wealthy businessmen and celebrities.

But the clients' names probably won't be revealed until Fleiss and her father stand trial on federal charges of money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy. That trial is set to begin Jan. 25.

In a 1993 interview, Fleiss said many rich and powerful men should be frightened about what she knows. Her prostitution operation went "beyond Hollywood. . . . It's studio (executives) and police and everything," she said.

Authorities said they will not prosecute Fleiss' clients, who paid up to $1,500 per sexual encounter.

In the state case, Fleiss was arrested in 1993 after a detective posing as a businessman allegedly had her supply him with prostitutes. She is charged with unlawfully procuring four women for the purpose of prostitution and possessing 13 grams of cocaine.

The two-week trial will be held in a courtroom across the hall from where prospective jurors are being questioned in the O.J. Simpson case.

Since Fleiss' federal trial focuses on four years of financial transactions beginning in 1990 _ and not a single sting operation _ the names of her clients are likely to surface. Prosecutors said customers wrote her personal checks _ some up to $10,000.

Paul Fleiss, 60, a Beverly Hills pediatrician, is accused of helping his daughter hide hundreds of thousands of dollars of prostitution ring money to avoid taxes. Both are charged with using the money to deceptively purchase real estate: actor Michael Douglas' former home.

"Our case is distinct from the state case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Holscher. It focuses on a long pattern of criminal behavior, he said.

At first, Fleiss, 28, was free on bail. She was jailed briefly after testing positive for drugs and has been living at a Pasadena drug treatment center awaiting trial. The U.S. attorney's office, the Los Angeles county district attorney and lawyers for the Fleisses attempted to negotiate a plea agreement to settle the state and federal charges. But no deal could be made.