TAMPA (September 20, 1999)--After a long, hot Florida summer of more depositions and pre-trial maneuvers, trial in the case of Wilson and Akre v New World (Fox TV) is still scheduled to start October 11th although further delay seems inevitable.

The trial of a multi-million-dollar dispute between two giant businesses gets underway today (September 20) in the same Tampa court where the Fox trial is set to be heard--and courthouse sources say the trial that begins today is expected to last six to eight weeks. If true, mid-November would seem to be the earliest possible start date the Fox matter could get underway...and that presumes no other trials have been set between the two.

Defendant attorney, Pat Anderson, takes deposition
from webmaster, Jon Duffey

60 Minutes crew and Judge Gaspar Ficarrotta
Prepare for August 26th Hearing

Although exact scheduling in Hillsborough County "Division D" is always unclear until the judge addresses the matter in each case, he is expected to give a strong indication at the Fox pre-trial conference set for September 30.

Still pending before the busy judge is Fox's third effort to gut the case against the defendant. Last month, attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm Williams & Connolly filed a mountain of papers along with a Motion For Partial Summary Judgment in the case. At an August 26 hearing, he argued the journalists' whistleblower claim should be thrown out primarily because only the FCC has the right to pass judgment on whether a broadcast licensee deliberately tried to slant the news.

Attorney John Chamblee who represents reporter Jane Akre argued against the motion and provided an equally-thorough written brief to the Court. The "weight of the evidence" submitted to the judge on this issue alone is more than 20 pounds. This reporter, who has represented himself throughout most of the pre-trial proceedings, also presented an oral argument that the dispute was much more than an honest editorial disagreement as Fox has repeatedly claimed.

In Florida as in many other jurisdictions, there is a very high standard to be met before denying a party an opportunity to try a claim before a jury. A similar Motion by Fox was denied months ago by Judge Robert Bonanno as was a Motion To Dismiss the claim shortly after it was filed.

John Chamblee, Steve Wilson,
Jane Akre (seated,) and William McDaniels
at August 26th hearing

As the pre-trial process continues, both sides have exchanged lists of witnesses expected to testify at the trial.

Nader at 60's congressional hearing
and covers from two of his many books

The journalists' witness list includes the name of consumer activist Ralph Nader who has agreed to come to Florida to testify as an expert about the public interest. Broadcasters who use the public airwaves are mandated to act in the public interest, especially in the news reports they broadcast. Fox attorneys have indicated informally that they will do their best to block Nader's testimony.

Fox has listed Don Heider, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Florida, as their expert in journalism. At his wesbite, Heider lists 10 years of experience in broadcast news "as a reporter, producer, photographer and manager." He began on the air at a local station in Cheyenne, Wyoming and then worked in off-camera positions at two Nashville, Tennessee TV outlets.

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