Background for today’s testimony: Rebecca Ward was one of two Blank Rome attorneys who testified against Jack Thompson in his November, 2007 Bar trial. Ward, along with James Smith, represented Take Two Interactive and other video game industry defendants in the $600 million Strickland vs Sony lawsuit which Thompson filed in Alabama.
It was upon a motion filed by Smith and Ward that Judge James Moore, in November, 2005, revoked Thompson’s pro hac vice (visiting) right to practice law in Alabama, essentially throwing him off the Strickland case, which alleged that a 2004 triple cop killing was prompted by the 18-year-old murderer’s play of Grand Theft Auto.
(Smith and Ward filed a Bar complaint against Thompson and were called to testify at his trial. In the excerpted transcripts, WARD is Ward. JT is Thompson, TUMA is prosecutor Sheila Tuma and DT is Judge Dava Tunis, who is presiding over the case…)
TUMA: Can you please identify that exhibit for the Court?
WARD: This is an e-mail… from Mr. Thompson, addressed to me, three other partners at my law firm, and our local counsel in Alabama, dated September 21, 2005.
TUMA: …can you read the first sentence, please?
WARD: …"Two of the partners in your firm, James T. Smith and Rebecca D. Ward, have decided to do a very foolish and very unethical thing… Your two partners have also presided over the decision of Rockstar to launch a website and suggest that I am a bisexual pedophile…"
TUMA: Can you tell me at any time if you have presided over the decision of Rockstar to launch a website?
WARD: No. In fact the particular website in question, I didn’t even know existed until Mr. Thompson sent this e-mail.
(Ms. Tuma continues to have Ms. Ward identify several nasty e-mails from Thompson for the record…)
TUMA: Would you go to Exhibit 19 and identify that for the Court?
WARD: Exhibit 19 is an e-mail from Mr. Thompson in which I am cc’d… It is dated October 20th, 2005… "Now, let me be clear. Any Bar complaint coming from these morons arising out of the above incident is baseless and itself constitutes a violation of a specific Federal Civil Rights statute… It’s okay for Mr. Smith to act like a Mafia thug, but it’s unethical for me to point out the thuggery."
JT: Judge [Tunis], forgive me, but I’m wondering why we’re excerpting – well, I know why, but I don’t know if it’s proper to be excerpting portions of these letters, having her testify to these excerpts out of context… I’m not sure what we’re doing here.
TUMA: He has an opportunity to cross examine the witness, Your Honor… Just so that we’re clear, every letter that I’m going over today and every quote I’m going over is exactly in the Bar’s complaint against Mr. Thompson… This witness is here today so she can testify to those… He was on notice of all of this.
JT: That goes to the unfairness of the complaint because it’s lifting comments out of letters out of context… So what she’s doing is compounding the unfairness… and having this witness read only portions of the letter. I’m just objecting and I hope you’ll read the whole letter, Judge, since you’re the one who is going to decide whether or not I have acted improperly here.
DT: Well, I have absolutely every intention of reading every single thing… just as clearly, Ms. Ward is here and available for cross examination with regard to everything that she’s testifying to.
(Ms. Ward continues to idenify e-mails sent by Thompson, including…)
WARD: This is another e-mail that I received from Mr. Thompson. This one is dated December 21st, 2005. It is addressed to a number of different people, cc’d to a number of different people, most of whom I don’t know. The body of the e-mail is a letter that is addressed to Mr. Eibeler.
TUMA: The CEO of Take Two at the time?
WARD: At the time, yes. [reading] "Maybe the absolutely dumbest thing you did was hire Philadelphia’s Blank Rome as your law firm of choice to represent you in courtrooms and to serve as your registered lobbyist in the U.S. House and Senate… Blank Rome also, very importantly, managed to lose all motions to dismiss in our wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama arising out of a teen’s training on Grand Theft Auto… We expect to try this case in 2006. We also expect to take at that trial every single penny Take Two currently has."
TUMA: And so that the record is clear, by [the time of this e-mail], the order revoking Mr. Thompson’s pro hac vice had not been vacated, had it?
(the implication of this is that Thompson was no longer admitted to practice in Alabama at the time of the e-mail, but is still speaking of the case as though he were serving as an attorney…)
JT: Excuse me, Judge… But here [Ms. Tuma] is asking questions about… my representations that I’m saying apparently improperly that I’m representing people while the pro hac vice application has been revoked. So in light of the fact there’s no unauthorized practice of law assertion in these complaints, why are we doing this?
TUMA: … we have charged Mr. Thompson with false statement. He’s indicated in the letters," I’m going to be in trial," "I’m going to the Courthouse."
(next, Ms. Ward continues to read Thompson’s e-mails into the record…)
WARD: Exhibit 23 is a December 15th, 2005 letter addressed to [Alabama] Judge Moore… "Jim Smith is the moral equivalent of hiring this kid [apparently, some threat to Thompson] to threaten to castrate me and stuff my testicles down my throat. The difference between that kid and Jim Smith is that Jim Smith was paid to target me."
(Ward testified how a February 1st, 2006 e-mail from Thompson caused some problems for her at her firm…)
WARD: After this e-mail hit the mailboxes of my partners, I got many e-mails and phone calls from people at our firm wanting to know what it was about, why were these things being said, what happened in the lawsuit, why we were accused of telling lies in court. It was a matter of some number of conversations…
(Ward also testified about an e-mail which may contain a name familiar to GP readers…)
WARD: …the one that’s dated November 2nd, 2005. It’s addressed to me, to Mr. Smith, to Dennis McCauley, who is a journalist – a freelance journalist in Philadelphia who runs the GamePolitics.com website… "Here you are, a woman representing the ‘right’ of a company to market to children a game in which they can simulate sex with a prostitute and then kill her to get their virtual money back… You disgrace us as lawyers. Shame on you. Shame on you as a woman as well…"
(I should point out that Thompson has cc’d me on hundreds – if not thousands – of e-mails since GP was founded… an e-mail the following day continued the theme…)
WARD: [Thompson wrote] "As to insulting Ms. Ward allegedly because of her status as a woman… I did just the opposite. Scripture tells us that women are to be exalted, and whether she likes it or not, to be protected by men who value women. What I did was not the unfortunate fact that she, as a woman, is protecting the misogynistic targeting of other women by her client [Take Two]. I was appealing to her better exalted nature and status as a woman, not demeaning her status as a woman. Only a man who feels comfortable facilitating the distribution of porn to kids that targets women would intentionally not get it…
TUMA: Can you tell us for the record what effect did Mr. Thompson’s conduct in these type of letters being sent to you, your partners, your clients, have on you?
WARD: …first, and on a most simple basis, every e-mail that he sends – and he sends numerous ones – they come in a flood, dozens at a time… they are not something we can afford just to ignore… As I said before, when we got the e-mail that was distributed to all the partners of our law firm –
DT: Do you want a tissue?
WARD: No. I’m just very tired. I apologize.
DT: That’s okay.
WARD: As I said, there were a lot of difficult discussion that occurred because when they receive these e-mails without any understanding of the context about the sort of person that they’re coming from – you know, when you have a large law firm, you take accusations of fraudulent activity very seriously… I’m sorry.
DT: Would you like to take a break?
WARD: Could I?
DT: No problem.
(a 15-minute break ensued… to give you an idea of how long these trial days were, the break ended at 6:05 PM with substantial testimony following…)
DT: Let the record reflect that we’re back in Court and all the parties are present.
WARD: I think that we took a break before I finished answering that question. As I said, when the e-mail went around to all of our partners, there were a number of people who didn’t understand the context of the letter and there were some questions asked about, you know, "Why would he be saying this" What was going on? What were you doing? What were you thinking?" …it was trouble and it was a waste of time to have to spend time answering those questions.
Then the comments [by Thompson] about, you know, my role as a woman and my status as a woman and how apparently – the way it read to me and, frankly, the way it read to my husband was that the men in my life weren’t giving me proper guidance about the values that I should have as a woman, as a wife, as a mother… It really irritated my husband quite a bit… I guess I didn’t realize exactly how angry everything made me until you asked the question… to read [the e-mails] again [in Court], I just got angry all over again. It made me madder than I expected it would.
JT: Ms. Ward, it’s easier to get angry with somebody sometimes than to deal with the things that you’ve done, isn’t it? Isn’t that kind of a rule of human behavior?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor, to the relevancy.
DT: Overruled. Go ahead.
WARD: I don’t understand the question, Mr. Thompson.
JT: Well, let’s get at it this way. Take Two / Rockstar Games makes mature video games. Is that right?
WARD: Among other types of video games.
JT: But they make mature rated games.
TUMA: Asked and answered. Objection. She said mature rated –
JT: Do you know… if this is a correct characterization? Manhunt 2 is a game that has been banned for sale in the United Kingdom and other European Union countries and yet is being sold by your client to teenagers in this country. Is that right?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor, of the relevancy of this to this proceeding?
DT: Could you please explain the relevancy?
JT: Oh, sure.
DT: -that she’s a lawyer for a corporate client –
JT: They’re the one who got into this thing about – and I brought it up in the letters and they want it to be front an center and we took a recess because it was upsetting to Ms. Ward about my assertions about what her client sells and about what, in my opinion, is a lack of moral circumspection on her part to facilitate that. I want the record to be clear about what these products are that concern me and that I think are inappropriate for any lawyer to facilitate – whether it’s a man or a woman – the sale of.
DT: Okay, and this hearing before this Court –
DT: – is not a hearing in which this Court will be making a determination about what constitutes, hypothetically – pornography, what constitutes something of violence. The hearing before this Court has to do with allegations of conduct pursuant to Florida Bar rules.
JT: Judge –
DT: So whether or not the company, the corporation, that is represented by Blank Rome -Sony and all of its subsidiaries – produces the video games as you are describing or if they produce something else, the issue is still the allegation of the conduct.
JT: Yes, and its propriety; whether or not I have acted improperly in writing certain things to Ms. Ward or anybody else and whether or not there was a reason to do that, a legitimate reason to do that, and whether or not I have acted to disparage Ms. Ward or improperly affect the administration of justice by such disparagement and so forth. Your Honor, I need to be allowed to ask and put in context – and she’s lifted these quotations out of the letters – what it is we’re exactly talking about here because she’s just spent an hour giving quotations about certain things that I have written…
DT: So what is the question that you were about to ask Ms. Ward?
JT: …Does your client, Take Two, make a game, Manhunt 2, that has been banned for sale to adults in the United Kingdom and yet is being sold to teenagers in the United States of America.
TUMA: I objected to that on relevancy. It’s not relevant to our proceeding whether or not Take Two sells Manhunt and whether it’s been banned in another country to the allegations before the Court.
JT: It’s right in the letters that she’s been excerpting from.
TUMA: They’re in evidence.
JT: Well, Judge, you said I was going to be able to do cross examination on these letters.
DT: If they’re in the evidence, go ahead. Ma’am, if you know, you can answer the question.
WARD: Manhunt 2 is a video game that was released by –
JT: How about yes or no and then explain.
WARD: I can’t answer your question yes or no, Mr. Thompson.
JT: Why not?
WARD: Do you want me to explain?
JT: No. I’d like an answer, but you can go ahead.
WARD: Manhunt 2, Your Honor, was a video game that was released I think in the summer of this year, more than a year after –
WARD: 2007. Manhunt 2. So I doubt very seriously that Manhunt 2 is mentioned in any of the communications that Miss Tuma asked me about because it hadn’t been released yet. It wasn’t released until this year.
JT: Manhunt. We’re talking about the products of Take Two. We’re talking about –
DT: Right. But you asked her about Manhunt 2.
JT: Judge, honestly –
DT: I just want the record to be clear that you asked he a question… about Manhunt 2, unless I misunderstood you. I wrote that down.
JT: Manhunt 2 is the sequel to Manhunt. –
DT: Okay, but you asked her –
JT: – and Manhunt is in the letters and Manhunt 2 is even worse because it’s been banned for sale to adults.
DT: Here’s what occurred, is that you told me that this was in the letters –
DT: – but you didn’t say that. You said Manhunt 2, which is why I allowed the question because you said –
JT: So I get to ask about Manhunt?
DT: No. What I’m saying to you, sir, is that I trusted your representation to me because I had not read this – I don’t know – 800 or maybe 1,500 pages. I have no idea how many pages. I’m taking it all in and will read it, but you said it was in the letters here –
JT: Manhunt is in the letters –
JT: – and the products of Take Two are in the letters –
DT: Okay. So you –
JT: – and the nature of the products.
DT: Your question now is about Manhunt?
JT: No. It’s about Manhunt 2. No. Judge, look. Honestly, Judge. Forgive me. I don’t want to argue with you, but we had to take a recess because she was upset about letters sent to her firm about what she represents and what she facilitates, what this law firm facilitates and I’m not going to be allowed to ask about what products there are that law firm puts out there and sells to children?
DT: I don’t know what relevance it has to this.
JT: It has every relevance because her position is that she’s upset about my having brought to the attention of her larger law firm – others in her law firm – what it is that she and Jim Smith have done. The context is what she has done and what she continues to do and what she did down here in Miami Dad Circuit Court before [Bully case] Judge Friedman and so forth; and how she makes a living and how she charges for every e-mail that she finds so offensive or letter that she reads. This is what she does and it ties into what Take Two does. I can’t for the life of me understand why I don’t get to ask her what her client is involved in.
DT: She is representing a corporate client… If she were representing a person charged with criminal misconduct – are you suggesting that what this Court should do is take the client that a lawyer represents and impute to the lawyer the conduct of the client?
JT: You know, Judge, you’re going pretty far afield on your function when you say the purpose of these proceedings is not to determine the appropriateness of a particular product and yet I don’t get to litigate fully the appropriateness of my characterization of what she and her clients have done. Those letters that she lifted sentences out of point out their methodology. Ms. Ward has put her name on these fraudulent pleadings to shoot the messenger, to characterize me as having misrepresented my disciplinary history. Why? In order to try and win a lawsuit in Alabama.
DT: But what is the relevance of what games, videos, whatever it is that her corporate client somewhere down the line – that’s not the issue here. I don’t even –
JT: Excuse me, Judge. It’s the issue for me and it may be in your narrow perspective of what the law is and what lawyers concerns can only be, that it’s not appropriate for a lawyer to ask questions about what other lawyers are facilitating and the harm they are doing in doing so and unethical acts by people such as Ms. Ward to put their names on pleadings that are fraudulent and deceptive and whose purpose is not to litigate the merits of the case, but to litigate the opponent.
DT: If you want to ask her questions about what she did that you are saying was fraudulent and deceptive and untrue and a lie, you have every right to do that…
JT: Okay. The proffer, so the record is clear, is that Ms. Ward – which I’m not going to be allowed to ask about regarding Manhunt 2 – represents this client that is selling to teenagers and in fact selling directly to minors from their own websites a game which has been banned for sale to adults, which you drive syringes into people’s eyeballs and suffocate them with plastic bags and which has caused an uproar regarding the banning in Europe and the sale of it here in this country. Okay.
Is your law firm, Ms. Ward, the lobbyist still in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for Take Two?
WARD: I don’t know…
JT: Has it been?
WARD: It has been, yes.
JT: And so what is your firm lobbying for on behalf of Take Two? Do you know?
WARD: I don’t know…
JT: You have taken the position, have you not, in the Alabama case that… correct me if I’m wrong – that Take Two should be allowed to sell mature rated games to minors.
WARD: I wouldn’t characterize our argument that way, no.
JT: You think, though, that the company has a constitutional right to sell mature rated games to individuals below the age of 17. Isn’t that right?
WARD: I think it depends on the content of the game.
JT: Your position in Alabama and the Strickland case, Ms. Ward, has been that your company had a constitutional right to sell and market a mature rated game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City game to individuals under 17. Is that right?
TUMA: Objection to the relevancy to the charges here against Mr. Thompson.
JT: No, no. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is all over these letters.
DT: Overruled. Go ahead.
WARD: As to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto III, which are the subject of video games in the Strickland lawsuit? Yes. Our argument is that it is protected by the First Amendment.
JT: And why did you not litigate that issue rather than assert to the Court in Alabama that I had withheld fraudulently and deceptively the nature of my disciplinary history?
WARD: We did litigate that issue, Mr. Thompson. We filed motions to dismiss and we also sought an interlocutory appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
JT: And you lost that.
WARD: We lost the motion to dismiss before Judge Moore and the Alabama Supreme Court rejected the petition for an interlocutory appeal.
JT: You said Mr. Eibeler, the CEO of Take Two is no longer the CEO. Is that right?
WARD: That’s correct.
JT: Would you tell us about the Hot Coffee incident which helped lead to his demise as the CEO of Take Two?
TUMA: …Objection, You Honor. How is that relevant to this proceeding as to why Mr. Eibeler is no longer the CEO of Take Two?
JT: Well, we’ll find out when she answers.
DT: How is that an issue that’s relevant? …about someone who is not a witness before this Court [and] is no longer employed by a particular corporation? …if you want to refer to a particular letter and show me how that’s relevant –
JT: No. I don’t want to refer to a particular letter. She testified and read from letters to Mr. Eibeler and my question – I’m trying to get at the nature of this client, which is a criminal enterprise – it’s a criminal enterprise… So my question is: can you answer the question as to what the nature of the Hot Coffee scandal was of Take Two?
TUMA: Objection to relevancy.
DT: I’m going to sustain the objection unless you can point to a particular letter that was gone over previously as part of these exhibits that you want explained for the record.
JT: …I don’t know what you’re afraid of Judge, but it seems to me –
DT: Sir, do you have a question?
JT: – that you don’t want me to –
DT: I mean, I –
JT: Yes. I’m putting on the record the fact that you don’t want testimony, it appears, that goes to this issue as to the nature of the company that she represents, which is what I’ve written various people about.
DT: …I’ve given you an opportunity – and the record should reflect this – to look through the exhibit book to pick out whatever letter you want to ask her about.
JT: Here’s one, Exhibit 21… "Take Two’s CEO, Paul Eibeler, was last week voted by Market Watch -which is, by the way, owned by Dow Jones – America’s worst CEO?"
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor.
DT: I’m going to allow it…
WARD: I don’t know whether it’s true or not…
(Thompson reads from some more of his e-mails…)
JT: What sort of person am I, Ms. Ward?
WARD: You’re the sort of person who sends dozens of e-mails over a very short period of time; who makes claims which I know from personal knowledge are not accurate…
JT: Okay, but you’re inclined to think that some of [Thompson’s e-mails] may not be true because of the sort of person I am… your default setting is, if Jack Thompson says it, it may not be true. Isn’t that right?
WARD: Today, is that my default setting? Yes.
JT: Okay, good. And your husband felt that I was criticizing him?
WARD: My husband took it personally, yes.
JT: He did. Were any husbands mentioned therein?
WARD: No… you were being critical of me and you were stating that you were exalting me as a woman, and I think the quote was that was your duty as a man.
JT: I think it was. That’s the biblical meaning, the New Testament view. That’s what I would hope, in that Jesus Christ was the first one, historically, who took on that role.
TUMA: Objection. Is Mr. Thompson testifying or asking a question?
DT: I believe he’s formulating a question.
JT: Thank you – that’s taking 2,000 years.
(there ensues a discussion as to whether Thompson might still participate in the Strickland case despite the revocation of his pro hac vice admission to the Alabama Bar…)
JT: Now, do you know what my contractual relationship is still with the plaintiffs in Alabama?
WARD: I know only what I’ve been told by [Thompson’s former legal associate] Mr. [Ray] Reiser.
JT: Mr. Reiser. What did he tell you?
WARD: Mr. Reiser… filed his motion to withdraw as counsel in the Alabama case… and he told me at the time that the plaintiffs would be looking for a new lead counsel… I think he said that as far as he knew, the families in the Alabama case did not want you to represent them.
JT: Would it surprise you that I had a meeting with the client and with new counsel in Alabama so that we could all work together and have a new fee agreement and represent the people?
WARD: No.. I only said I knew what Mr. Reiser had told me… I don’t know whether it’s true or not…
JT: Finally, you know, I don’t like to see anybody cry, Ms. Ward, and I don’t mean to be – I’m not trying to be condescending or accomodating or dismissive of your tears and so forth. I’m sure I have caused you discomfort and pain and I think that’s regrettable, but… I want to ask you this. Do you think that the three families in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the Fayette area have cried any tears over their loss?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor.
JT: Is it your belief, Ms. Ward, personally or in any capacity that these products that your client is selling and that your position on their behalf is that these mature rated products should be sold to children – even these cop simulation murder games – that they have no deleterious effect upon anybody?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor. It’s irrelevant.
JT: That’s also irrelevant, Judge? I’m sorry. That’s irrelevant?
DT: Yes, sir. It very well may be relevant in the Strickland case in front of Judge Moore. Not here…
JT: Well, let me ask you [MS. Ward]. What was the reason for your emotion? You cried, but then you said when we came back you didn’t know how angry you were.
WARD: I was angry; and, unfortunately, when I get angry, I tend to cry.
JT: Can you conceive that the families in Fayette are angry?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor.
JT: what do you think in ranking things is more important, hurt feelings or loss of life?
TUMA: Objection, Your Honor, as to the relevancy.
JT: Have you any personal qualms about what your client [Take Two] does in this regard?
TUMA: Objection to the relevancy.
(Ms. Ward then discusses that she is still involved in the Strickland case, but no longer in a similar matter in New Mexico. She is unable to explain why due to a client confidentiality issue… Thompson finishes… Prosecutor Tuma asks some re-direct questions…)
TUMA: Ms. Ward, you talked about telephone conversations you had with Mr. Reiser regarding the Strickland case. In any of those conversations, did Mr. Reiser talk to you about Clatus Junkin?
WARD: He told me… this isn’t an exact quote… The things that Jack is saying about the conversations with Clatus Junkin are not true… He said that Mr. Junkin had never claimed or depicted himself as a "fixer" who could fix a case with a judge…
(On re-cross, Thompson suggests that Reiser is not reliable… Ward’s testimony concludes…)