We’re coming to the end of our exclusive series detailing the video game-related testimony in controversial attorney Jack Thompson’s professional misconduct trial by the Florida Bar.
In today’s episode, GamePolitics will present Thompson’s closing argument. There is no cross-examination during a closing. It’s an attorney’s chance to summarize the case for the Court, recalling evidence presented and touching on points of law. As such, except for a couple of procedural matters, this is Thompson speaking.
In tomorrow’s finale, GP will recap the series, including an explanation of how it all came together. If you’ve missed any of the previous installments, just click the Bar Trial series tag to catch up.
(In today’s excerpted transcript, JT is Thompson, TUMA is prosecutor Sheila Tuma and DT is Judge Dava Tunis, who is presiding over the case…)
JT: Okay. By way of closing argument… here’s the text of the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Did I give you that?…
JT: It says… "Exercise of religion means an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious beliefs… The Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it is demonstrated that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest… A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief."
I’m simply making the argument, Judge, that my motivations – which I have tried to make clear, maybe to the point of nausea – are religious and that my efforts against the distribution of adult material, pornographic material, violent material, adult rated material to children is violative of the law as well as violative of Scripture. I quoted the biblical passage where Jesus says, reportedly: "If any one of you should cause one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a millstone be tied around your neck and that you be cast in the uttermost depths of the sea."
If I am disbarred, which is the wish of these [Florida Bar] people… I will continue to do what I’m doing on these issues whether they disbar me or not because this is what I was called to do, this is what I was enabled to do more effectively as a lawyer…
These [Florida Bar] people, Judge, in 1992, sought and got an order of the Supreme Court of Florida, telling me: "You will either submit to a mental health exam by the Bar’s own chosen psychiatrist and psychologist because, A. we think you may have brain damage; and, B, we believe your obsession with photography -" they meant against pornography "- is so severe that you are mentally incapacitated by virtue of that disability and unfit to practice law."
As I recounted in my book… they found that Jack Thompson is perfectly sane… He doesn’t have brain damage and, in fact, he’s a Christian acting out his faith in this fashion. So they’re stuck with a formal document that they generated to the humiliation of me in my community that I’m simply a Christian acting out my faith when I do these things.
When you’ve got hypocrites… then I have a right – in fact, I have duty, as Jesus did, the confront the Pharisees and say: "You are hypocrites. You are liars. You are whited sepulchers. You’re in a den of thieves," and so forth… So these people now in this situation, it’s all by stealth. They want to do it in the darkness…
I asked you, Judge, at the outset: Will they please disclose to me what in the world their position is as to my mental health. They wouldn’t do that and yet they required the resolution of this matter with a demand that after I’d pled guilty to all these things, I’d then have to submit to a mental health exam. That’s what they said, knowing my motivation is religious…
Then I submit to them the psychological forensic evaluation of me by Dr. Oren Wunderman, who’s used by the Florida Bar because they considered him an expert… and he said: "Look. This guy’s a competent attorney. He’s, in effect, under attack by people who don’t like what he’s doing and his religious faith not only animates what he does, but also enriches his practice of law and enriches his capabilities as a lawyer…"
So, Judge, you have to make a determination, which I’m asking you to make, that the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act is being violated by the Florida Bar because of their effort to punish me for the acting out of my religion… Done – on that one.
DT: I’m sorry. You’re asking me a question?
DT: Oh, I think that the Bar is going to submit their responses in writing. That’s what I understood.
TUMA: We were… We already have a memorandum of law regarding this. Mr. Thompson has raised this in our pleadings before and we do have a memorandum of law and whether the Bar is violating the Respondent’s rights under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act case….
JT: … Okay, Judge. May I finish?
DT: Yes. Of course.
JT: Okay. Another argument [by Florida law] Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, SLAPP suits, by governmental entities are prohibited… I’ll just point out and ask the Court to read Section 4. It says" "No governmental entity in this state shall file or cause to be filed… any lawsuit -" and then the important phrase here "-cause of action-" differentiating it from a lawsuit "-claim, cross-claim or counterclaim against a person… solely because such person… has exercised the right to… petition for redress of grievances before the various governmental entities of this state."
My book, which you wouldn’t allow into evidence, recounts the efforts – past efforts – of the Florida Bar to improperly discipline me, which resulted in the payment of damages and so forth… That’s in evidence by the virtue of my testimony. It’s been my contention that what has animated the Bar… is the exercise of my First Amendment rights to be critical of the Bar and say no to them in the past and now for their attempt to wrongly discipline me. I think it’s vindictive. I think it’s a clear attempt to punish me for the exercise of my First Amendment speech… Judge, I was hampered in this defense when I asked for certain discovery from the Bar and I was told I couldn’t look at documents the Bar had without first paying a $4,000 up front fee to look at my own file up there…
So what the Court has to do is address the fact that this is nothing but a SLAPP action by the Florida Bar in pursuit of an attempt to chill my First Amendment speech… I’m done with that one.
TUMA: I have a memorandum on this. The Bar is going to tender to Your Honor a memorandum on whether the Bar is violating Respondent’s First Amendment rights to free speech….
DT: Thank you.
JT: Finally, we get to the last thing, the First Amendment. Did I give you all the Fieger ruling? I know the Judge has it…
DT: Is that a Michigan case, Mr. Thompson?
JT: Yes… Judge, do you have yours? If not, I’ve got another one…
DT: Thank you…
JT: Mr. Fieger [a prominent attorney] had some sort of a dispute… and Mr. Fieger had a radio program and he… was upset about what these judges had done and he called them Nazis. He said that their ruling was worse than if you had put a certain number of monkeys in a room and they had typed at typewriters and come up with the opinion. It suggested that they were in the pockets of commercial interests.
DT: He said this to whom?
JT: He said it… on his radio show to the whole state of Michigan.
DT: OKay. So he was a radio personality, a person on the radio.
JT: He’s a lawyer. He’s a very successful lawyer who’s been on all the talk shows… Greta Van Susteren, and –
JT: He also represented Dr. Kevorkian, "Dr. Death." He ran for governor of Michigan…
(Fieger was sanctioned by the Michigan Supreme Court for his criticism of the judiciary; Thompson is referring here to a U.S. District Court decision which overruled the Michigan Supreme Court)
You’ll note that that… this federal court says – if you compare the importance of the two – the respect for the judiciary or individual judges is less important than protecting the… judicial process because judges come and go… The opinion here is that unless someone said something that is false… or in reckless disregard of the truth then… you have to let it go and you’re allowed to say these things.
Now, there’s been no testimony, no evidence – in my opinion – anywhere in this case, Judge, that I have uttered anything that’s false about Judge Moore or Judge Friedman or that I have uttered what I have said in reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of what I’ve said.
I’ve said that Judge Friedman violated his own order, which he did. He didn’t give me a hearing that he said he would give me. He didn’t review the game [Bully] which he said he would do. Then I wrote some other things to him which he found annoying… So believe me, having been within the belly of Judge Friedman’s courtroom and seen what he did improperly in an ex-parte proceeding where he didn’t do what he said he would do, I had a right to tell the truth. I had a right to identify what he had done wrong.
DT: You mean an in camera proceeding?
JT: What did I say?
DT: Ex parte
JT: In camera… I didn’t question of either Judge Moore or Judge Friedman their integrity.
(GP: although Thompson alluded that Alabama lawyer Clatus Junkin claimed to be able to fix cases with Judge Moore… and in his cross-examination of Moore, Moore said, "I saw a letter not long ago where you said I was corrupt." to which Thompson replied, " Yes, I think you are, but not in that [case-fixing] sense.")
JT: Clatus Junkin, the self-important king maker, as he views himself as having put this judge [Moore] on the bench – and believe me, there’s plenty more about that – was upset that I had defamed him and he came here… to tell the Court what a despicable human being I was and how I had defamed him. I had no option whatsoever but to go to the authorities… and tell him that this guy was running around, according to every lawyer who knew him in Alabama, that he could arrange the result in a case. And having heard that, what did I do? I acted upon it to do what? To preserve the integrity of the bench, not to harm it…
The matter before [Bully case] Judge Friedman was over, and yet I’m charged… with engaging in conduct with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. First of all, I had no client. I brought a pro bono on behalf of the State as a private attorney general. I had no client… Secondly, I didn’t attack the integrity of this judge or his qualifications… I didn’t question his integrity. I questioned the propriety of a judge violating his own orders…
Further, what we’ve got here, Judge – and there was some discussion about this earlier – is: This is a libel case that these people brought against me, a criminal libel case.
(GP: this is Thompson’s analagous characterization of the case; it is not in fact a criminal case, nor is it a libel case. It is a series of professional misconduct allegations under Florida Bar rules)
JT: Criminal libel, by the way, is unconstitutional almost everywhere in this country. You can’t punish anybody by anything other than taking money from them, which would be a civil libel action, but these people want to take my career away from me. It’s clearly penal in nature as the Supreme Court defines this type of disciplinary proceeding. They want me to forfeit my license. So whether we want to consider it a criminal action… it’s clearly violative of the Florida Constitution-
DT: What’s violative?
JT: This proceeding against me as to my speech.
DT: Okay. I just wanted to follow that last argument.
JT: If you look –
DT: No, no. You don’t have to – Say it again? …
JT: I understand. – and I just want to build on that, if I may… Article one, section 4 of the Florida Constitution. I don’t have it in front of me, but basically it says-
DT: That’s okay. I’ll look it up.
JT: Basically it says… you can’t impinge upon a Florida resident’s First Amendment rights… if you look at all of these complaints, Judge, they’re almost all violations of my speech rights. I’ve said some things that bothered Clatus Junkin and I said some things about Judge Friedman that the Third District in another case agreed with me about how he runs his Court, pre-judging cases… So, Judge, this is First Amendment speech. It’s been engaged in to protect the integrity of the judicial process…
(GP: Thompson then says that it was his complaint that led to the removal of The Crying Judge in the Anna Nicole Smith case, so…)
JT: So, Judge, where do you draw the line? …Am I allowed to write the Broward State Attorney about… [Crying Judge] Larry Seidlin, who’s now going to have his own reality TV show? Am I allowed to do that?
Am I allowed to talk about Judge Friedman pre-judging cases, acting as if he were a tyrant in his chambers and in his courtroom and taking unsworn testimony from operatives of Take Two? Am I allowed to talk about that?
Am I allowed to talk about the fact that Clatus Junkin indicates to me and others that he’s in charge in Fayette, Alabama… If I defame Clatus Junkin, who has said that this is the worst thing any human being had done to him, then he could bring a defamation action.
The restriction upon me as a lawyer, which I understand, is that I have to have within the bounds upon my rights a respect for the judiciary, of the integrity of a judge. Yet the standard that I’m held to in that regard as a lawyer which gives them, the Florida Bar, the right to discipline me if I go over that line is the same line that’s delineated in libel law…
Judge, I’ll conclude with this, and I appreciate the Court’s indulgence. The Court had extended me many courtesies during the last nine days, and I appreciate the ones you extended to me and I’ll say again with no disrespect for the Court in this regard. I would have liked a little less courtesy and a little more fairness…
You know, I don’t know what’s going to happen here. I’ve got an idea… So my detractors and opponents have the view that they can file Bar complaints against me, threaten to rape my wife, corporately incite the sending of sex products to my wife and me at our home, and I’m supposed to just sit there and be a human pinata for anything that the Florida Bar, which collaborates with these people – and, Judge, you don’t know the half of it. You don’t know the half of what has gone on here – and that I’m supposed to just sit there and take all this nonsense and not complain…
(GP: it’s unclear what the "rape" allegation refers to. As we recall, the "sex products" allegation seems to want to blame Rockstar for somehow inciting unnamed persons to send the items to Thompson by way of harassment… )
Blank Rome, knowing my wife had just had ovarian cancer surgery, sued me with a lawsuit at our house – at our house – knowing she’s stretched out on a couch, unable to move. Ray Reiser had asked them not to bother us at our home, and these people, knowing she had this surgery and is recovering from it, knowing I had a lawyer, Ray Reiser, to accept service, having been told that – my wife, she had to get up off the couch and receive this lawsuit at the door from a process server; and they knew it and they did it on purpose.
Judge, I apologize for any unkind comments I’ve had for you about my wife, and your total lack, in my opinion, of appreciation of the fact that to go through a process like this in which your profession is being threatened with being taken from you at the same time that your wife is fighting for her life and that you don’t understand, apparently, Judge, that there are burdens in a situation like that, that it’s almost too much for a body and a person to bear.
So, Judge, I appreciate you courtesies in the midst of all this. I think these [Florida Bar] people don’t have any – don’t have a sense of democracy in their bodies. They don’t understand what freedom is about. They don’t understand that the great infringer of freedoms in our nation’s history and world history is government. These people don’t care about that. They care about their view of ethics. They don’t care about the little ones that are harmed by these people through their illegal commercial enterprises.
If this Court finds… If this Court wants to act upon their suggestion that you can find me guilty… for things that don’t even involve the practice of law, then I will go on with my life… we’ll just have to deal with that and we’ll move on and we’ll get a remedy in another venue [i.e. – the federal court system]
But, Judge, thank you for your kind offices and your courtroom for the last nine days; and I particularly appreciate your bailiff…
TUMA: …The only thing the Bar would add is that we will put our closing in writing to Your Honor…
NEXT: GP’s recap of the series…