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Judge confiscates hard drive in Voom trial

Emails extracted from exec's computer as Dish witness nixed

A Gotham judge confiscated the hard drive of Dish Network’s programming VP Carolyn Crawford with harsh words he later apologized for and barred the third and last of Dish’s damages experts from the stand Monday in the breach of contract trial between the satcaster and Cablevision.

Cross examination of former Dish vice chairman Carl Vogel ran long and the satcaster’s founder and chief Charlie Ergen is now expected to take the stand Wednesday morning.

“I apologize for calling you ‘that woman,'” Judge Richard Lowe of New York State Supreme Court told Crawford.

The damages experts were meant to rebut plaintiff Cablevision’s claim for $2.4 billion in lost profits after Dish dropped its Voom HD service.

Extracting emails and other information from Dish has become a theme of the case even before it went to trial. Dish was sanctioned for destroying evidence in the litigation with Cablevision over Voom. In 2005, Dish inked a 15-year carriage deal for Voom to get a leg up in high-def but dropped the suite of channels after two years. It justifying the move by saying Voom hadn’t invested a promised $100 million in the service, in which Dish had an equity stake.

In testimony Wednesday, Vogel, who repped Dish in the Voom negotiations, said he came to a preliminary conclusion that Voom hadn’t invested enough in 2006 after reviewing the balance sheet and income statement for the first three months of 2007. He said he had never examined the 2006 financials, a fact hammered by Voom attorney Orin Snyder. Based on Vogel’s reading of the numbers, Dish sent Voom a letter requesting a spending audit. But Crawford told Vogel in an email after that the audit result didn’t back Dish up and only “creates an illusion of leverage.” Dish had spent just over $100 million total on Voom in 2006.

Dish dropped Voom anyway claiming that a chunk of that $100 million, including overhead, should not count towards the total. Vogel said only $80-$90 million, including $59 million for programming, were permissible under the contract.

“I trusted Mr. Ergen,” who he said was well aware of the fine points of the contract, Vogel said. “My belief is that $100 million was not spent on the service,” he said. And, “I don’t believe I deleted key emails.”

Synder insisted that Dish was mainly desperate to exit a deal that had become too expensive.

Not so, Vogel said. “We were happy to pay for the Voom service.”