The Bar Trial of Jack Thompson (Part 9): Recap, About the Series, What's Next for Thompson?

March 28, 2008 -

Click here to see the entire series: The Bar Trial of Jack Thompson...

It's fair to say that Miami attorney Jack Thompson is an iconic figure among the video game community, although not in any happy sense.

Since immersing himself in the game violence debate in the late 1990's, he has become the embodiment of what many gamers perceive as a lack of acceptance by non-gaming society and the mainstream media. In some ways, he seems to relish the role.

Thompson's frequent television appearances, during which he typically blames violent video games for all sorts of mayhem, have positioned him as the go-to guy when the media (primarily Fox News, of late) needs a sound bite lamenting the havoc which video games are supposedly wreaking on modern youth.

No other critic, no other watchdog, has ever come close to Thompson's recognition factor. There are gamer-created songs about the guy. Cartoons, too, as well as video skits, t-shirts, toilet paper, website parodies and Photoshop contests.

To be fair, though, Thompson works at it. His media appearances, his propensity for acid-tongued verbal attacks, his lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and incessant e-mails containing Urgent! alerts make him difficult to ignore.



So when Jack Thompson is placed on trial for professional misconduct charges by the Florida Bar, that's a big story for gamers. The stakes are obviously high for Thompson as well. Even though he has vowed to fight on if disbarred, his credibility will take an undeniable hit. Will Fox News still want a de-licensed attorney as their go-to guy? That's hard to say, but for Thompson, disbarment certainly can't be a positive outcome in any sense.

There is probably no other news outlet, gaming or otherwise, which has covered Thompson as much as GamePolitics in the three years since this site was launched. That certainly wasn't by design. But Thompson is a newsmaker in precisely the arena upon which GamePolitics focuses. And GP has a commitment to covering the news whenever, as our slogan goes, politics and video games collide.

So Thompson inevitably gets covered, sometimes to the frustration of readers. Nor has the relationship between Thompson, GamePolitics, and its readers been an especially agreeable one over the years. But when he makes GP's kind of news, we write about it. Thompson apparently appreciates - or at least covets - the coverage. He still sends us those Urgent! news releases and (as recently as yesterday) chides GP when we don't report on certain of his activities.

So, covering his Florida Bar trial was something that I considered a must for GamePolitics. Regrettably, personal circumstances precluded me from traveling to Miami for the trial, which was my original hope. As it turned out, that was probably a good thing. Although the proceedings were expected to last about a week, they ran for nearly two.

While not being able to cover the trial in person was a disappointment, I was pleased to find that at least we hadn't been scooped. There was no other coverage to speak of. The mainstream media in South Florida seemed oblivious. Fox News? Nada...

So I began to work on the next best thing to being there - acquiring transcripts of trial testimony. A call to Judge Dava Tunis' office got me the contact info for the court reporter assigned to the case. I called the reporter midway through the trial's first week. She was an extremely nice woman, although perhaps a bit surprised to hear from me. But she promised to check with Judge Tunis as to the propriety of my request and was as good as her word. Judge Tunis saw no problem with GamePolitics acquiring the transcripts (they are, after all, a matter of public record) and Thompson was made aware that I was seeking the testimony.

But court reporters make their living in part by providing transcripts for a fee. After a discussion of price, I calculated that it was cost-effective to purchase transcripts of just two of the witnesses against Thompson. While there were five whose Bar issues with Thompson originated from video game cases, I opted for Alabama attorney Clatus Junkin and Alabama Judge James Moore.

Among all of the witnesses, Moore was the one who held the most interest. He oversaw Thompson's high profile Strickland vs. Sony "GTA Killer" suit in Fayette, Alabama and was the jurist who threw Thompson off the case by revoking his pro hac vice (visiting) license to practice law in Alabama. Moore's testimony, however, was very long, stretching over two days. Trying to stay within the budget I had established, I also opted for the transcript of Alabama attorney Clatus Junkin. Junkin's testimony had the virtue of being relatively brief (and thus, not too expensive). Moreover, there was a natural tie-in with Judge Moore, since Junkin's dust-up with Thompson also related to the Alabama GTA case.

By the way, I want to mention that without ECA president Hal Halpin, this series would not have been possible. When I pitched the idea to Hal and asked that the gamer advocacy organization (which owns GamePolitics) cover the not-insignificant cost of acquiring the initial round of transcripts, he didn't hesitate. When we needed additional transcripts later, Hal insisted that the ECA cover the expense.

Now, I didn't get the transcripts immediately. Preparing them takes some time and we were up against the holiday crunch when Thompson's Bar trial ended in December. The court reporter had a well-deserved vacation scheduled, which added a bit of delay as well. As it worked out, I received the Junkin and Moore transcripts on January 2nd of this year and tore into them immediately. I quickly realized that, while they told a fascinating tale, the testimony of the other game-related witnesses was needed to offer a well-rounded picture of the Bar's case against Thompson, as least as it related to the video game sector.

So the wonderful court reporter and I were once again in contact. I worked out an arrangement with her to acquire the transcript of Judge Ronald Friedman, who presided over the infamous Bully case. I also sought the testimony of a pair of Blank Rome attorneys, James Smith and Rebecca Ward. Smith and Ward were Thompson's opposing counsel in the Alabama GTA wrongful death lawsuit. It was their motion which prompted Judge Moore to remove Thompson from the case. Since the Alabama incident, Smith, Ward and the Blank Rome firm have been frequent targets of Thompson's ire.

The three new transcripts arrived on January 16th. After a quick read, I set them aside since I knew the series wouldn't run for another couple of months. For maximum interest, I wanted The Bar Trial of Jack Thompson to appear in advance of Judge Tunis' decision in April. Ultimately, I pegged March 18th as the date on which the first episode would be published.

There were some other prosecution witnesses against Thompson whose testimony I did not seek because they had no relation to video game issues. For his part, Thompson called no witnesses. Rather he testified on his own behalf for the better part of a week. While I didn't believe purchasing Thompson's lengthy testimony would be cost-effective, I did advise him that GP's series was imminent and offered him an opportunity to comment on his trial. I also asked him if he would provide me with the text of his closing argument, as this would summarize his defense.

Thompson not only declined, he threatened me with legal action if I went ahead and published the series without including his transcripts. We had the following less-than-pleasant e-mail exchange in the run-up to the March 18th debut of the series:

GP (March 17): I will be having coverage this week of testimony from your December Bar trial. Would you care to comment? I’d be interested in the text of any closing statement you might have made.

 JT (March 17): Any reportage you undertake which does not correctly depict all that happened there, will be treated as libelous and actionable.  You're paying for partial transcripts at your own great risk.

GP (March 17): You are invited to comment, and I’ve asked for your closing.

JT: (March 17): I am warning you that if you have trial transcript portions to the exclusion of my portions, then you are liable.

GP: (March 17): You’re given an opportunity to address the trial, comment on the trial and provide the text of your closing.

JT (March 18): I am not giving you anything re my Bar trial, then, as anything you report will be censored by you for the purpose of harming me, as you repeatedly have done.  If you report on the trial, based on a partial transcript, then you're on the hook for any failure to report on the gist of the entire transcript and the entire trial.  Any real journalist would understand that, but then you're not a journalist. You're an industry flak.

GP (March 18): We’ll be reporting on your Bar trial (you’re a public figure, it’s news) despite your unwillingness to offer your side and despite your threats.

JT (March 18): Returned, unread, and sent to my "Dennis McCauley never reports the inconvenient truth" folder.  I spent nine days in trial.  I don't have to relive it for a twit who couldn't care less what really happened there, asshole.

GP (March 18): Well, I very much care what happened at the trial. That’s why I’m reviewing the transcripts. And I’m very interested in your side, especially your closing. That’s why I’ve asked for your comments and the text of the closing, what, four times now?

JT (March 18): It speaks for itself

Despite Thompson's threat, GamePolitics published the first installment, detailing the testimony of Clatus Junkin, as scheduled on March 18th. The following morning I received, via e-mail, a cease-and-desist demand from Thompson, which read in part:
 

You are running a series of “articles” at your site about my Bar trial by selectively procuring transcripts of the portions thereof that suit your purposes.  You have asked for me to provide you transcripts of other portions.  I neither have them nor do I have a duty to provide them if I did have them.  You have, however, a duty to procure transcripts for all portions of the trial if you are to profess to be reporting on this event in a non-libelous and fair fashion.  This is the first breach of your legal duties to me.


 

The second breach is the fact that you have prohibited me not only from posting my responses to the false and defamatory comments about me by your posters in response to the above, but you also prohibit me from accessing your site directly.  This is outrageous.  This is supposed to be a site at which people can post their comments.  You have excluded me from the opportunity to defend myself thereat...


GP: while it's true that Thompson is banned from posting, we do let his occasional post through; any responses he attempted to post to the Bar trial series were approved and appear on GP...
 

You and your parent organization are now on notice that I shall prosecute this latest assault upon me to the fullest extent of the law, and I shall look not only to you but to ECA for recompense.


Not only was the threat without merit, to give into it would effectively have ceded editorial control of GamePolitics to Thompson. Not on my watch.

Since Thompson refused to provide the text of his summary or offer any comment on the trial, I went back to the unflappable court reporter one more time, this time seeking Thompson's closing argument. Although Thompson probably wouldn't admit it, I'm convinced he got a fair shake in the Bar trial coverage. The series presented not only the witnesses' testimony, but Thompson's cross examination of them as well. An entire episode was devoted to Thompson's closing argument and two others covered nothing but his cross examination of witnesses (Judge Moore and Judge Friedman). And, while we don't have Thompson's testimony, neither do we have the Bar prosecutor's cross examination of him.

There were even some moments of unexpected levity in the series. GP readers especially enjoyed the back-and-forth between Judge Moore and Thompson over a courthouse fax machine which apparently gave up the ghost under the crushing weight of Thompson's frequent messages.

So where do we go from here?

The series has generated a great deal of interest in the Thompson case, with total reader comments running into the thousands. For his part, Thompson currently has lawsuits ongoing in U.S. District Court against the Florida Bar as well as against the Florida Supreme Court, which appointed Judge Tunis to hear the case and which will ultimately act on her recommendation. Thompson has also complained that a state-mandated loyalty oath for Judge Tunis was apparently signed by someone else. It is unclear how those allegations will play out and what effect, if any, they might have on the outcome of the Bar trial.

As a journalist who has been tracking this case for a long time, I'd be extremely surprised if Judge Tunis didn't recommend that Thompson be disbarred. On the other hand, I fully expect Thompson to appeal any such decision.

Whatever happens, do not expect Thompson to give up his culture crusade. Even as a non-lawyer, he can still act on his own behalf. He knows how to file cases. And while they may be able to take away his law license, unless the Florida Bar can confiscate his PC and his fax machine, don't count on Jack Thompson going away.

At least not quietly.

Click here for the entire series: The Bar Trial of Jack Thompson...


Comments

im sorry i have

if i may have everyones attention please . . .

and now a moment of silence in honor of the brave fallen in this trial our beloved fax machine may you rest in peace

You should be commended for this work Dennis. This series has proven to be a, dare I say it? Delightful look into the sheer depths of arrgance and madness Thompson suffers from (No matter HOW fruity it is for a full-grown man to say delightful of a news series.)

I, for one, appreciate all the effort and... unpleasantness that goes into these stories, moreso your dealings with thompson himself.

So to get off my kick of SERIOUS commentating and get beck to the good old fashioned sardonic jokes: You win the prestiegious Al Gore award. For not only did you WIN the internet with this series, you INVENTED the internet.

Go you.

AgnostoTheo

How does one get in contact with J.T.?

My first time posting. Thank you So much GP. If you do more of these, you can rest assure I will read it. And a big thank you to Hal for the funds.

"JT (March 18): ...I don’t have to relive it for a twit who couldn’t care less what really happened there, asshole."

anger management.

On a serious note, you guys nicely and professionally ask him for his comment and he gives you this response? If he is consider a normal human being, then I guess crackpots are too.

P.S. Great job on this series GP!

@SeanB: by Summoning the devil... >.>

You did an excellent job GP, just don't let him onto these comment boards ever again. When will we have a verdict?

I really enjoyed reading through the events of the trial, no matter the outcome. So props for the awesome reporting Dennis!

Calling people 'assholes' and 'twits'...such a wonderful Christian ol' Jacky-boy is. A man who clearly does not love his enemy, and never turns the other cheek. There is a word for that: hypocrite!

A few other words that describe Jack: Irrational, uneducated, myopic, liar, jerk....and more than a few others that aren't fit to print.

;)

This really was a enterteining series, indeed. The sad part of this is there was any attention from the mainstream media like Fox Noise, maybe because Thompson´s trial would affect their own credibility (the little they still got).

I really want Jacko get disbarred and fired from the lawyer profession. He really is an awful man, not only for videogamers community or the videogame industry, but also for all the people who crosses on his path.

I have not any best wishes for him, but I hope he just dessapair from the media.

@SeanB:

"How does one get in contact with J.T.?"

Say his name three times while looking in mirror works, I'm told.

A wonderful series Dennis and one that I have enjoyed throughout. It was good to get the straight facts about what was going on in the case.

I wonder, when do we get to know the outcome of the case?

I'd like to point out that if Thompson is disbarred, it could potentially be a bad omen for gamers. As told, no on comes close to Thompson in "recognition factor." He is the poster boy for anti-gaming rhetoric in the United States (other nations have their own demons). So, what happens if he is disbarred, and the wind is taken out of his sails?

Someone else will take the forefront on the war on video games.

And his replacement might actually be competent.

Dennis, again, we thank you for the great job you've done at reporting this case.

Will JT ever go away quietly? As much as I'd like to think disbarrment would shut him up for good, he made it clear in his closing arguments that he would continue no matter what (as an aside, then, if that's the case, why would he fight so hard to keep his license?)

But even he does, there's no question that he'll have been effectively removed. Since he would no longer be a lawyer, he cannot claim to be an authority figure of any kind and thus would no longer be able to get on TV and claim to be an "expert" on anything. Likewise he would no logner be able to use the law like a blunt instrument and harrass and intimidate people he doesn't like. Yes, he could still file his own suits, but it would no longer be free and he'd still have to have someone else represent him. And as someone else here said, what other self-respecting lawyer would want to jeapoardize his career hitching their wagon to him? Especially since his ego is so big we know he doesn't like to compromise; it's either his way or no way at all.

The worst case scenario I could see is he could possibly fall back on his standing as a deacon in his presbyterian church and tour churches around the country preaching about the "evils" of popular entertainment to anyone who would be willing to have him. But even then he would not be nearly the force he once was. Having been effectively declawed, defanged an neutered by the Bar, his words will carry no more import than the cranky old man shouting from his porch at the young whippersnappers to get off his lawn.

Just wondering, is it me or do Jack's mental faculties appear to be deteriorating? Not that he was ever polite to begin with, but I seem to recall a time when he at least retained some semblance of decorum and did not use obscenities. But considering he called Dennis "asshole" here told Clatus Junkin to "go fuck himself" during his testimony, it seems he feels he's no longer above doing that either. If he's supposed to be a Christian, he's not doing a very good job of it. Whose frontal lobes are supposed to be fried again?

thompson is a posterboy for legal reform lol

i wouldnt worry bout someone following in his footsteps

Great job on the articles by the way. I'm sure everyone here really appreciates the effort you put into these.

How is JT going to sue you if he can't file anymore? Did Florida revoke that privilege?

Do you have any idea when a decision will be reached? As I understand it the trial was over several month ago, and there still hasn't been an announcement. Is this normal?

@ Are'el

Except a competent lawyer wouldn't misrepresent personal opinions as facts, nor would a competent lawyer file dozens upon dozens of frivolous lawsuits, nor would a competent lawyer be so hypocritical, nor would a competent lawyer kill fax machines. I don't think we have anything to worry about.

Oh right, and a competent lawyer actually WINS cases.

Cidas & ArchRanger:

On or before April 21st.

I wonder if Fox News uses Jack Thompson again and calls him an attorney after he gets disbarred can we sue them for false information?

But knowing fox news they would use some other title such as "expert".

@ SeanB

If you're asking for his e-mail... just don't. It will only add fuel to his fire.

Bravo, GP. Bravo. I applaud your efforts to cover this trial to the best of your ability (and pocketbook) and applaud all the harder for your efforts to have JT involved. Please, keep up the good work.

Can I just say the people insulting Jack and his wife/family. You know that isn't helping at all, right?

Maybe once he's disbarred he can be a fax machine spokesperson. I mean, think about it.. whatever fax machine he has KILLED ANOTHER ONE, and keeps on going! The makers of that fax machine should jump on this opportunity at once!

Dennis, I'd like to thank you for all the hard work you put into this fantastic series. You've done a lot for this site and to your readers and we appreciate you for it! Excelsior!

I hope the judge rules that he should lose his his license to practice law in the state of Florida, and that anyone he has ever insulted, offended, slandered, made cry, or caused fax machine failure to, shall hereby be allowed to kick Jack Thompson in the nuts as hard as they can, while wearing a pair of steel-toed boots.

Dennis, great coverage of the trial! Very informative and educational.

@SG HighCharity: We don't need to sink to his level, man. Leave mrs. T out of it.

***Informative and entertaining, not educational. Because then we wouldn't be under-educated.

@SG HighCharity -- dude, not cool. Leave the family out of this. And grow the hell up.

JT is supposed to get his answer from this case apparently the day of my birthday. I'm psyched.

Jack Thompson must be disbarred, or fax machines everywhere will suffer!

Won't SOMEBODY please think of the poor fax machines?!

Did anyone read the second paragraph in Thompson's email? This guy would be a perfect fit at Fraud News.

@ Jimbo

That's precisely my point. With Jack, it's been like our enemies were being led by a drunken circus monkey. There was nothing to fear, because Thompson's own insanity worked against him.

But if someone else takes up the cause, someone that isn't self destructive and knows what they are doing, cases against video games might become harder to defend against.

@Are'el

But doesn't it take a self-destructive, insane person to make these claims in the first place? We haven't seen any competent legitimate lawyer make any national headway in anti-video game legislation and lawsuits.

It seems very hard to believe that a competent lawyer would make such claims against Take Two and other companies.

competent attorney dont chase windmills

@Black Manta:

JT is still free to file his own suits and briefs and motions and whatnot -- just not in the Florida Supreme Court, which is a separate jurisdiction from all the other courts. It may be a higher court, but the instruction was only to the clerk of the SCOFLA. Florida does have a vexatious litigant law that could enjoin him from filing anywhere else in the state's jurisdiction, but that would have to be considered in a separate case.

I have various reasons, however, to doubt that they would attempt to apply that law to him, not the least of which is that it wasn't intended for JT's particular sort of behavior, but more for "habitual litigants" who make a habit of making essentially random and illogical suits. Jack's litigation might be a twisted sort of self-aggrandizing self-righteous quixotic pursuit of, well, publicity for Jack, but it does at least maintain some logic.

The only thing disbarment would do materially is bar him from representing anyone else in court. Wouldn't help his reputation of course.

Dennis, thank you for all you've done and put up with to get this story out. You should go run Fox News on the side in your spare time, from what I see from them it doesn't seem to take a lot of effort!

BTW, I don't know why so many of you are worried about Mrs. Thompson. She's been married to the king of buffoons for years, ovarian cancer should be a piece of cake.

@ Cullarn

Well, ther is is son to consider. Hopefully though he has more sense than his dad and realizes what a jerk he's been and we can be spared Jack 2.0.

I don't think we need to worry too much about JT's "replacement" as the charismatic anti-gaming figure. One of the reason JT has become so well-known is his unabashed bending of the truth. No lawyer who actually intended to win would have filed the case that JT did against "Bully" in Florida. Even a cursory review of the game makes it clear that it's not a public nuisance. But Jack was okay with filing it because he just likes the publicity and likes to be able to say later that he filed a lawsuit against a gaming company.

If someone else arises to take his place, hopefully it'll be someone who is concerned about their reputation and won't take on cases just for the publicity. When gaming is addressed on its merits, after all, it's not quite as frightening as JT would have everyone believe it is. That's why all the legitimate research coming out now shows that gaming isn't actually harmful. Long-term, gamers have a lot in our favor.

And speaking of that, +1 to laying off the personal sniping at JT's family. It shows that we're on a higher moral level if we don't stoop to vulgarities and name-calling.

@Are'el Says:

It's not like there's a fixed sum of anti-game crusaders out there. There's the occasional ignorant asshat in the USA, but over in Europe, there appears to be a real full-on assault by governments to regulate content. These people aren't less emboldened by the fact that a clown like Jack Thompson exists, and while they'll no doubt breathe *some* sighs of relief if and when JT is finally drummed out of any marginally respectable debate, it's not like they've been holding back in the meantime.

Perhaps the talking head on the news will be replaced by someone more agreeable in tone, but I'd welcome civil debate -- the truth always tends to have more of a fighting chance when fear, anger, and hate aren't allowed into the debate.

After looking back at that threatening/insulting post by our favorite lawyer, I realized that it's deliciously ironic-he calls all of the site's commenters uneducated (which it's obvious if you read comments regularly is at least partially untrue)...but apparently couldn't be bothered to spell check his own comment. oops.

Well if there's any justice in this world, he'll get his.

Really, that's all I've got.

I'm kind of confused about something.. If he so very much wants to be able to have his say, why doesn't he just create his own blog? It doesn't even have to cost money. He could use one of those many Livejournal accounts he created, or use Blogspot.
Thompson, if you're so worried about getting your side out, make your own blog. Or maybe you couldn't do so without libeling others?

@ronald watts

he does have his own blogsite!!!
http://www.jackthompson.org/

i guess he nerver gets any traffic

Just because Jack's willing to drag Stinger and Pat in his mud doesn't mean they deserve the same. In all fairness, Stinger's not old enough to have a choice and Pat apparently chooses to stay out of it (it is, I believe, Jack who uses her alleged illness as an excuse for his conduct and a basis for appeals to sympathy).

Keep those punches above the belt.

@cullarn, wow...they don't update that site often do they? Recent news is May '07?

@cullarn

Actually, that's not Jack's site. Jack's site, under its most recent name (it's had a few different names), is rescuejustice.com (but it's got no content, just a reservation in his name).

@Cullarn:

Hmmm I find it interesting that the last "News" on it was the FL court starting his trial in april of last year. Anyone else think that maybe he realized that no one cared what he thought?

@JDKJ:

Uh..."Stinger"?
 
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