Plaintiffs' law firm involved in 'jury tampering,' sez Cedillo
SAN ANTONIO — The third trial day in the antitrust case against Blockbuster and the Hollywood studios opened with the defense accusing the plaintiffs of jury tampering, which led the judge to order Web site operators for the plaintiffs’ legal team to the courtroom, where they were arrested.
As soon as court was called to order Friday morning, defense attorney Ricardo Cedillo informed Judge Edward C. Prado that the site run by plaintiffs’ law firm Moriarty/Leyendecker, (www.blockbustercase.com), had posted personal information about the eight jurors in the case, including their names. The site also carried transcripts of the voir dire conducted Wednesday, including questioning of jurors that were not ultimately empanelled.
Cedillo used the term “jury tampering” and implied the posting of juror information was intended to encourage people to contact the jurors and attempt to sway their decision in the case.
Prado ordered plaintiffs’ attorneys to have the people responsible for the Web site in court by lunchtime “with their toothbrushes” and fined the plaintiffs $1,000 per hour until the information on the site was taken down. The entire site appeared to have gone dark within two hours Friday morning.
Moriarty/Leyendecker employees Mitch Shields and Kevin Hanson were arrested when they arrived in court but released hours later.
Site turned off
Prado said blockbustercase.com is to remain down for the duration of the trial and ordered Moriarty/Leyendecker to make a good faith effort to get the personal information about jurors removed from other sites that picked it up.
Attorney Jim Moriarty acknowledged having directed Web staffers to post general information about the jurors, such as their ages and genders, but said he did not order any more personal information posted.
Moriarty said that since the voir dire had been conducted in open court, he considered it appropriate to post.
Cedillo also accused Moriarty of improper interaction with the jury in the courthouse, saying Moriarty had addressed jurors by name during breaks, which is not allowed.
Also, Prado asked the defense to resubmit its request for summary judgment, an indication perhaps that he would reconsider that motion.
The sides also scuffled over the witnesses to be called Friday.
MGM Home Entertainment president David Bishop and Warner Home Video senior VP John Quinn were scheduled to be called by the plaintiffs, but plaintiffs’ attorneys emailed defense counsel at 1:26 a.m. advising that they intended to call independent retail plaintiff David Stevenson instead.
Defense attorneys protested that change and asked the judge to let Bishop and Quinn testify, noting that the executives had traveled to San Antonio on 72 hours’ notice as required. None of those men testified. Quinn and Bishop were dropped from the plaintiffs’ witness list.
Both MGM and Warner reached settlements before the trial.
Universal Studios Home Video president Craig Kornblau was called to testify before court was dismissed Friday. His testimony will continue today before the plaintiffs continue with their scheduled list of witnesses that include Stevenson and Disney’s Michael Eisner (via tape).
Prado earlier ruled that any witness who would appear in court to testify for one side must also appear for questioning by other side on 72 hours’ notice.
Among the witnesses scheduled to be called by the plaintiffs this week are Michael Johnson and Dennis Maguire, Universal’s William Clark, Ingram Entertainment’s David Ingram, Columbia TriStar’s Robin Russell and Fox’s Pam Kunick-Cohen. Retail plaintiff Ronald Cleveland is also set to testify.
The list of scheduled witnesses for the week of June 24 includes Fox’s Pat Wyatt, Warner’s Jim Cardwell (via tape), Columbia’s Ben Feingold, Blockbuster’s John Antioco and Dean Wilson and ETD’s Ron Eisenberg.
(Paul Sweeting is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)