IN THIS ISSUE:

REPORTING
Borat Lawsuits

ENTERTAINMENT
& SPORTS
Lawsuit Stands Against Law and Order Creator

Baseball and Steroids

BRIEFS
Will no one rid me of this turbulent bird?

Making a hit on Broadway

Pennies Don’t Fall From Heaven

Nor Have I Ever Stolen a Dog

SIDEBAR
Getting Hotter

TRANSITIONS
Crimes That Involve Moral Turpitude

Kickback Scheme

It's Not Always Like the Movies

Where Are They Now?

TRAVEL
Escape to Nantucket

Nantucket basics
BOOK REVIEWS
On the Lap of Gods
By Robert Whitaker


> Pro golfer Tripp Isenhour goes head-to-head with a red-shouldered hawk
> Empire State Building parachuter to stand trial
> Co-sceenwriter sues Mel Gibson for 5M
> Nicholas Cage sues Kathleen Turner for libel

Will no one rid me of this turbulent bird?

Professional golfer Tripp Isenhour was charged in March with animal cruelty and killing a migratory bird after he hit a red-shouldered hawk with an iron shot.  The 39-year old golfer, whose real name is John Henry Isenhour III, ran into trouble while filming a segment for “Shoot Like a Pro” at the Grandnantucket flag Cypress Golf Course in Florida.  According to court documents, Isenhour got upset when the hawk began making noise and interrupted the filming.  Isenhour began hitting balls at the bird, three hundred yards away, but was unsuccessful.  When the hawk moved to a tree, seventy-five yards away, Isenhour tried again, and this time nailed the bird which fell to the ground.

In March, the head of the Humane Society of the United States faxed a letter to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem urging the “appropriate remedial action against Isenhour up to and including fines and suspension.”

Isenhour, apparently without consulting an attorney, made statements trying to explain away the incident, saying it was a “one-in-a-million” golf shot.  “What happened was, you know, the bird was making noise, but the fact that I was upset was inaccurate,” Isenhour said.  “There were several others trying to get the bird to simply fly away.  That’s all we were trying to do.  The bird was high up in the tree and I was simply just trying to hit the tree to make the bird fly away.”  The golfer later issued a public apology.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 14 months in jail and a $1,500 fine.  No word yet on the legal eagle who will be hired to represent Isenhour.


Making a hit on Broadway

Speaking of high flyers, it appears that Jeb Corliss, who tried to parachute from the top of the Empire State Building in 2006 before being stopped by security guards, will have to stand trial for reckless endangerment.  The Appellate Division, First Department in Manhattan, reversed a lower court judge who had dismissed the charges stating that no specific law prohibited parachute jumping from the midtown skyscraper.

Corliss was arrested in April, 2006 at approximately 5:00nantucket flag P.M. on the observation deck of Empire State Building.  According to court documents, Corliss entered the building wearing a prosthetic “fat suit” to disguise his appearance.  When he emerged on the 86th floor observation deck, he was wearing a jumpsuit and a backpack containing a parachute, as well as a helmet with a camera mounted on it.  He scaled the security fence and went out on the outer ledge of the building.  Security guards at the building, who had been alerted in advance by an anonymous source, tried to apprehend him, but there was a struggle.  One of the guards was finally able to handcuff him to a rail, and this rendered him unable to jump.  He informed the guards that in that position, his parachute could open accidentally, causing him fatal injuries.  The guards cut the straps of the pack to remove the parachute and arrested him.

Corliss claimed that before going to the skyscraper, he had studied the traffic patters of the avenue below and planned to time his jump so that he would land when the traffic lights on the avenue below were red and the avenue was clear.

The attempted jump was covered widely by the New York press, perhaps because it reminded everyone of the old joke, “Why did the moron jump off the Empire State Building?”

Corliss was indicted for reckless endangerment in the first degree.  A Supreme Court judge dismissed the indictment, stating that the defendant’s conduct did no rise to the level of depraved indifference as that term had been defined by New York court, and it did not suggest moral depravity or wickedness.  The judge maintained that “however outrageous this stunt was, the evidence before the grand jury demonstrates that defendant took steps to avert risk to others.”  The ruling was widely criticized by the New York tabloids.  Corliss then sued the owners of the building on the ground that the building security guards had caused him “severe emotional distress.”

This legal mess was rectified by the Appellate Division.  The court ruled that the indictment should be reinstated, and that charges should be reduced to allege reckless endangerment in the second degree.   The court noted:  “Climbing over the security fence, to a position where, according to one security guard, he appeared ready to jump off the building, in itself put people at risk.  Not only were 30-to-40 mile per hour winds gusting out of the north, making mishaps more likely, but even an accidental misstep, or a hand or object reaching through the security fence and accidentally pushing, rather than grabbing him, could have sent the defendant in the air, where a faulty parachute would result in a likelihood of death not only for defendant but for people on the ground.   Even a properly functioning parachute that landed a jumper safely might cause a variety of accidents.” 

Not surprisingly, the New York press was pleased by the decision.  In an editorial, The New York Post hailed the victory “over the moron who tried to parachute from the top of the Empire State Building.”


Pennies Don’t Fall From Heaven

The co-screenwriter of the movie, The Passion of the Christ has sued Mel Gibson and his production company for five million dollars, claiming that he was misled into accepting a small sum of money for his work on the script.

In a twenty-one page complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Benedict Fitzgerald accused Gibson of fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.  Fitzgerald maintained that Gibson engaged in a “chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit,” telling Fitzgerald that he would be working on a small project that would yield little money.   The film eventually grossed over six hundred million worldwide.

Fitzgerald was reportedly paid $75,000 for his work on the screenplay and had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson for expenses.  Fitzgerald shared screenwriting credits with Gibson.

Fitzgerald claimed in the lawsuit that when he was asked to write the script, he was told that the movie would cost between four million and seven million.  According to allegations in the complaint, “Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben’s fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs.”

The lawsuit requires a leap in logic, or a leap in faith.  Presumably, if Fitzgerald had been informed of the real budget for the film before he started writing, he would have asked for more money, at which point Gibson would have hired another writer, and Fitzgerald would have received no money at all.


Nor Have I Ever Stolen a Dog

Actor Nicholas Cage filed a libel suit in London over statements made by his Peggy Sue Got Married co-star Kathleen Turner in her tell-all book Send Yourself Roses.  In her book, Turner claimed that the actor had been busted twice for DUI and once for stealing a dog.  She wrote specifically: “He caused so many problems.  nantucket flagHe was arrested twice for drunk driving and, I think, once for stealing a dog.  He’d come across a Chihuahua he liked and stuck it in his jacket.”

After excerpts from the book were printed in a British newspaper, Cage’s attorney began libel proceedings in London’s High Court.

Cage issued this statement:  “I have never been arrested for anything in my life, nor have I stolen a dog.”

Cage’s attorney advised the New York Daily News that unless Kathleen Turner issued “an apology and a retraction, he intends to go full speed ahead with litigation in the U.S.”

A day later, Turner produced an apology – of sorts.  She stated:  “I guess what I can say is I’m truly sorry if I caused distress or harm, because one thing is for sure – I never, ever intended to do that.  This is what I remember, these are my thoughts and (they were) certainly not intended to damage anyone else.”

And about the dog, my bad.