August 5, 2000:
July 27, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 8-9
Startling Admission from Fox
V-P Who Fired Wilson/Akre
July 26, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 7
V-P News Lays Claim To
July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins
July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4
July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2
July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1
July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities
July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act
July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case
June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track
June 26, 2000:
Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case
June 21, 2000:
Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa
June 16, 2000:
Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected
June 8, 2000:
Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles
June 6, 2000:
Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July
May 25, 2000:
Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled
May 18, 2000:
Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful
Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo
May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and
Trial set to begin June 12
Fox Challenges rBGH
Experts At Depositions
Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?
Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed:
Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed
Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well
Trial Still Set to Start Soon:
Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?
UN Health Group Shuns BGH
New York Times:
Farmers Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime,
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report
Democracy Group Award to
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"
New Trial Date is October
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th
Judge Says BGH Case Will
Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH,
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV
(rated G -- no nudity, just the story)
Summary of BGH Developments
How Fox Wanted to Slant News
of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release
Akre & Wilson Win Courage
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available
and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?
Akre-Wilson Depos Start
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet
Reporters Respond To Defense
story FOX-TV refused to air...
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit
Digger Still Plays Dirty
Depositions Continue, Trial Date
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order
Grazing A Stink
- - -Don't Have a Cow
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction
FOX-TV asks court:
and Delay depositions
V I C T O R Y !
VICTORY OVER PRESIDENT'S LAWYERS AND
MURDOCH'S MEDIA EMPIRE
In front of a Monsanto warning label are (from
left) lead Plaintiff's lawyer John Chamblee, Steve Wilson,
attorneys Tom Johnson, Tracy Martinell, and Jane Akre
Back To D.C.
William McDaniels leaves court following defeat
By STEVE WILSON
TAMPA (August 18, 2000)After listening to all the
evidence for five full weeks and deliberating more than six hours, a
state court jury has agreed with what fired journalists Steve Wilson
and Jane Akre said long ago: Fox Television pressured them to broadcast a false, distorted
or slanted news report.
The jury awarded $425,000 in damages after finding the
evidence proved that Fox took retaliatory personnel action against
Akre because she threatened to blow the whistle to the Federal
The jury did
not find for Wilson
"This is a wonderful day,"
Metlin told the Times and WTVT in an interview that was also
aired on the station's 10 p.m. news broadcast. He and other
Fox executives refused comment to The BGH Bulletin as they
left the courthouse after the verdict.
Chief defense attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm
Williams & Connolly that represents President Clinton, said the
defeated defendants would have a statement later in the evening and
promised to provide it but never did.
Fox has indicated it intends to appeal the damage award the
jury gave to Akre.
guys at the same trial I was at?" Akre asked after watching
WTVT's reporting of the verdict on the station's newscast Friday
think this jury decided Fox never told anyone to lie, distort or
slant the news?" co-plaintiff Wilson asked. "Poor
Mr. Metlin must have gone somewhere to drown his sorrows before
drawing a conclusion like that!
"And as for Fox
lawyer Ted Russell making a similar statement on the air,"
Wilson continued, "he's just doing what the jury saw Fox
lawyers often do. They frequently have, shall we say, a unique
interpretation of the truth."
instructions made it clear that in order to find that Fox
violated Florida's whistleblower law--which it did find in Akre's
case--proof of a violation requires a finding that the station did
act intentionally and deliberately to distort the news. (A full
set of the instructions, all 32 pages, are now available here in
last day of the grueling, five-week-long trial began with the
litigants agreeing on final jury instructions and the verdict form
which would be given to the panel.
Fox had proposed lengthy
instructions and a multi-page jury verdict form for each
defendant. The final instructions both sides agreed to were
written on 32 pages but the verdict form itself was pared down to a
single page for each plaintiff.
Shortly after10 a.m.
trial Judge Ralph Steinberg began the half-hour task of reading the
instructions to the jury before sending them into the jury room to
Bruce Gold, the seventh
and alternate juror, was then released by the judge who thanked him
for his five weeks of service. As he left the courthouse, he
stopped in a courthouse lounge where for more than 20 minutes he
answered questions from the plaintiffs and lawyers and employees of
juror Bruce Gold (left) speaks to litigants and the press after
being released by the judge
As the deliber-
were getting underway one floor above, Gold told the group he was
80% certain he would have voted against the fired reporters, saying
they failed to make their case to his satisfaction.
Speaking directly to
Wilson, Gold told him he thought the fired
|reporter himself by acting as his own lawyer in the
The jury never heard the
judge commend Wilson several times for his presentation, including
his closing argument to the jury which judge Steinberg called
During the jury selection
process, Gold said he had represented himself in a civil suit in
Chicago years ago and had come to the conclusion that anyone who
represented himself had a fool for a client. For strategic
reasons and because he was chosen as the second alternate, Wilson
and Akre's lawyers nonetheless decided not to challenge his presence
on the jury. (He became the only alternate when an original
member of the jury dropped out for health reasons and the first
alternate joined the panel.)
Gold said he thought the
reporters could have been more cooperative with their bosses and he
was not fully convinced the station wanted the journalists to lie or
distort the news. He said he would have made a final decision
on that after looking more closely at the evidence, including the
final two scripts the reporters turned in.
The computer programmer
said he believes "the boss is the boss" and cited an
example of some computer work he did the other day for a
client. He said he told the client there was better way to
write the program but the client said they wanted it done the way
they ordered it. "He is the boss," Gold said,
"and so I do it the way he wants."
He also said he suspected
he was the plaintiffs' strongest supporter and would be surprised if
the jury returned a verdict for either one of the fired
journalists. Fox lawyers and WTVT News V-P Phil Metlin beamed
as Wilson shook hands and thanked the juror for his service.
Never Count Your Chickens...
VICTORY NEVER CAME
Roberts grins as News V-P Metlin flashes premature "V" for
As the jury deliberated, Fox lawyers sat nervously if not smugly in
Courtroom 1 doing what they never expected to do--wait for a jury to
decide whether their clients, the station management at Tampa's Fox
13, violated the law and the public trust.
After staying away for
most of the trial, apparently fearing he would be served with a subpoena
to testify for the plaintiffs, Fox L-A counsel
|Gary Roberts joined in the vigil.
"I have a feeling
it's going to be a long wait for a case that was never going to get
to trial," Wilson told Roberts as they both waited in the
The reference was to a
remark Roberts once uttered to Wilson and Akre not long after the
whistleblower case was filed. At the deposition of Monsanto
lawyer John Walsh in New York, Roberts sneered, "This case is
never going to get to trial," indicating that Fox money and
legal muscle would prove far too much of a mismatch for a couple of
fired and unemployed reporters.
Roberts claimed he has
since been misquoted several times and chastised Wilson,
"That story changes each time you tell it."
THE FINAL SIX --
JURORS IN THE FOX/BGH TRIAL
| Not long
after the jurors entered the jury room and closed the door behind
them at 10:42 a.m., they asked the bailiff to wheel in a large
chalkboard and provide them with a second set of the jury
Shortly before 4 p.m.,
after they had spent more than five hours in the room together,
Judge Steinberg called the parties together and indicated he would
like to inquire as to what progress was being made. The jury
was brought into the courtroom and one of the jurors told the judge
"We're close." With that simple remark, the judge
sent them back into the room to resume their deliberations.
Within about an hour,
there was a knock at the door and the jury indicated they had
reached a verdict.
Just before 5 p.m. the
jury re-entered the courtroom and tjhe judge asked : "Do you
have a verdict?" Pharmacist John Tagler, the foreman
elected by the others, replied, "Yes, Your Honor, we do."
Two sheets of paper, the
verdict form for each plaintiff, was then handed to the judge who
reviewed the documents and certified that they had been properly
filled out. He then handed them to the court clerk to read out
loud. Plaintiffs Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, who are married
to each other, held hands as the clerk started to read:
What The Jury Decided
"Do you find that the plaintiff Jane Akre has proven by the greater
weight of the evidence that the defendant New World Communications
of Tampa through its employees or agents terminated her employment
or took other retaliatory personnel action against her because she
opposed or refused to participate in the broadcast of a false,
distorted or slanted news report which she reasonable believed would
violate the prohibition against intentional falsification or
distortion of the news on television if it were aired?"
The jury verdict as to
question one: No. The courtroom remained tense as the
clerk went on to read question number 2:
"Do you find that
the plaintiff Jane Akre has proven, by the greater weight of the
evidence, that the defendant, through its employees or agents,
terminated her employment or took other retaliatory personnel action
against her because she threatened to disclose to the Federal
Communications Commission under oath, in writing, the broadcast of a
false, distorted, or slanted news report which she reasonably
believed would violate the prohibition against intentional falsification
or distortion of the news on television, if it were aired?"
The jury verdict as to
question 2: Yes.
With one of the first two
questions answered in the affirmative, the clerk went on to read the
third question before the jury:
What is the amount of
lost wages, if any, lost earning capacity, if any, and damages, if
any, sustained by the plaintiff Jane Akre?
For lost wages:
For lost earning
For other damages:
The clerk then proceeded
to read the same questions as to the jury's findings with regard to
plaintiff Wilson's claim, reporting that the jury voted
"No" to both questions and therefore awarded him
"I learned it is extremely
difficult if not impossible to be both a strong and aggressive
advocate for yourself in the courtroom and a victim at the same
time, "Wilson told reporters after the jury was
The more aggressively
Wilson interrogated hostile Fox witnesses to bring out the truth in
front of the jury, the more he seemed to confirm the Fox claim that
he was a difficult employee, the reason station officials claimed
they chose not to renew his contract for a second year.
Although the reporter's
questions drew admissions and responses that shocked and surprised
even the Fox defense attorneys at times, they sometimes led to
bitter confrontations in the courtroom. At one point, Fox
attorney Greg Jones screamed at Wilson, "You're the biggest
liar I've ever known!" He was admonished by the judge and
repeatedly had to be told to answer Wilson's questions responsively.
"The jury was told
they must determine whether I was fired because I objected or
refused to participate in the production of a slanted story. ,"
Wilson explained. In fact, the exact instruction to the jury
was 'if you determine that this was the reason for the
termination, then your verdict shall be for the plaintiff'.
"The problem was the
jury had no option to find that the slanted news report was a compelling
reason, or a substantial reason, or even just one of
the reasons," Wilson said. "With those instructions,
it had to be the reason. And once I admitted to being
difficult in the face of my bosses telling me to lie on the air, I
think the jurors decided my intransigence certainly could have also
been another reason they wanted to get rid of me.
"Jane and I were a
team. We were working on the same story. This jury has
now decided that what Jane threatened to disclose to the FCC was a
false, distorted and slanted news report," Wilson added.
"That is a stain
that no amount of spin from $650-an-hour Washington lawyers who
specialize in telling you what the definition of "is" is can never
take away. No appeal can ever remove it, either. And
neither can any amount of lying about, as WTVT has resorted to doing
on its own newscasts," he said.
"Jane and I
have a lot of respect for many of the fine people who work
there. They need to take a look at Friday night's 6
p.m. news transcript and then look how the spin changed in
the 10 p.m. news
transcript...and compare that to what the jury said on the
verdict form itself. the transcript of what what their own
station reported at 6 p.m. [CLICK
HERE to see Fox distortions at 10 p.m.
noted in red]
Outside the court-
house after the verdict, Akre lawyers John Chamblee and Tom Johnson
told reporters the verdict was a landmark victory for all
journalists in Florida.
It is the first time the
state whistleblower law has been successfully used to protect a
journalist who is
TOM JOHNSON &
WOULD PRESIDENT CLINTON
BE BETTER OFF WITH THESE LAWYERS ON HIS SIDE?
|fired for refusing to slant the news.
"This is for
you," Chamblee told reporters, including a woman hired to
report the story for WTVT. "This is for everyone in this
state who calls himself or herself a journalist and for any of them
who may ever end up in a terrible situation like