Suit accuses TW of false claims

Restaurants stare down conglom on signal charges

NEW YORK — In what is shaping up as a David vs. Goliath story, lawyers for a small restaurant in Queens, N.Y., have accused the mammoth Time Warner Cable of New York of knowingly fabricating evidence in an attempt to prove that the restaurant has stolen Time Warner’s cable signal.

This allegation — which appeared in a motion filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, on June 25 by Greenwald, Christoph & Holland on behalf of the Silver Spoon Diner — is only one of several accusations being leveled at Time Warner.

False witnesses

The underlying suit alleges that in at least two cases, and perhaps many more, Time Warner’s director of signal security farmed out the investigations to a firm that signed false documents claiming that bars and restaurants were stealing Time Warner Cable’s signals and rebroadcasting them to customers.

The suit alleges that Time Warner threatened to drag the local restaurants into federal court unless they paid the media conglomerate $4,000.

Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer for the Silver Spoon (also called Halkios Restaurant Corp.) and another Queens establishment, El Sams Restaurant and Bar, said that most small businesses don’t have the resources to defend themselves in court against Time Warner, so almost all pay the $4,000 without a fuss.

Time Warner declined to comment on the motion, but the company did deny the allegation that it falsified evidence.

Physical impossibility?

Greenwald claims that the Silver Spoon, based in the Lafrack City area, is physically unable to steal Time Warner’s service because the restaurant’s building is not wired for the service.

However, Time Warner said that an investigator visited the establishment and saw New York 1 news playing on the TV set. Since New York 1 is exclusive to Time Warner, the investigator cited this as evidence that the Silver Spoon was stealing Time Warner’s signals.

As a result, Greenwald alleged that the investigator who claimed to see New York 1 on the TV fabricated his report.

In addition, Greenwald’s motion alleged that the Time Warner investigator fabricated written correspondence with a New York City Police officer in a further attempt to prove that the Silver Spoon was stealing its service.

Notable conversation

As evidence that the Silver Spoon was stealing its cable service, Time Warner produced an incriminating hand-written note from its signal security director, Thomas Allen.

Allen said he wrote down a conversation he had with Sgt. Joseph Regula in May 1996 in which Regula implicated the Silver Spoon in the theft of Time Warner’s signal.

However, in a deposition, Regula, an internal affairs officer, said he didn’t transfer from homicide to internal affairs until September 1996, so he couldn’t have had the conversation with Allen.

“Time Warner knew my clients weren’t getting Time Warner signals when they sued them in federal court for $4,000,” alleged Greenwald. “We knew it must be part of a broader pattern.”

Greenwald has taken on a second client, El Sams Restaurant and Bar, that claims that it, too, was falsely accused by Time Warner of stealing its cable signals. El Sams was sued with 27 other businesses after the March 1996 Tyson/Bruno pay-per-view fight based on testimony from an investigator hired by Time Warner who said he personally witnessed the restaurant steal the fight.

Time limits

The other 27 bars were sued on first-hand evidence supplied by the same investigation company, ACI Investigations. Because the fight only lasted 15 minutes and ACI has identified only two investigators on its staff, Greenwald reasons that it was unlikely that two people visited 28 different bars and restaurants all over New York City in 15 minutes.

“We intend to bring a very large suit against Time Warner,” said Greenwald.