Courtroom Witness
Describes Art Bell Slander
Suit Hearing
"Hollow (Gunderson and Hinkson's attorney) said that during the aired allegation, Hickson (sic) named an "Art Bell" without clarifying whether he was Jr. or Sr. He eventually explained that it was all a basic mix-up, that the child molestation report was of the younger Bell being a victim, instead of the senior Bell being a perp. There was also confusion about why the records weren't made public; this is possibly because the young Bell was a minor and therefore, the records of his kidnapping and assault were sealed."
From Thomas Buyea < From Sara < 4-30-00
This is a story that seems to be making the rounds on assorted other mailing lists and BBS so I thought I'd pass it along. Not having been at the hearing myself, I have no idea of whether this is an accurate account, but it is interesting.... Sara
The Art Bell Case Against Ted Gunderson, et. al.
By Katherine Sullivan © 2000 4-30-00
The following is an eyewitness report of the Summary Judgment hearing held today (4/28/00) in Nashville, TN concerning Art Bell Sr.'s lawsuit against four defendants: two radio stations, Ted Gunderson, and a Mr. Hickson. You have my permission to pass this on to whomever. Another person present in the courtroom also took many notes; I hope she will also share them, and her opinions, with you. I need to clarify that I went to the hearing with an open mind. I have never listened to an Art Bell show, nor have I ever talked with or corresponded with the man. For all I knew, Gunderson's allegations could be based in fact. Keeping this mentality helped me to stay objective during the hearing.
Today is April 28th, 2000. The hearing began shortly after 9 AM and finished around 11 in Judge Shipley's courtroom. The judge was rather petite with straight, short gray hair. She seemed intelligent and seasoned but admitted that this kind of case was unique in her courtroom ... she usually handles cases ranging from child abuse to car accidents.
She announced that several news stations had asked permission to bring their cameras into the courtroom. She would not allow this; since the courtroom already had stationary cameras, she said the proceedings would be videotaped. Tapes of the hearing are available from the court clerk office for $15 plus approx. $4 S&H and will be available in several weeks.
The following information comes from my handwritten notes. So much information was presented so quickly, there is no way I could write down everything that was said. I may have made a mistake or two in interpretation, although if I wasn't sure about something that was said, I noted it.
I wasn't able to obtain the correct spelling of names of the attorneys, nor of the potential witnesses they quoted. I also was not able to obtain the name of the bulky, gray-bearded, balding man identified to me as Ted Gunderson's attorney.
Mr. Fox from Los Angeles verbally represented Art Bell. Another attorney flanked Bell on his other side and participated in a quieter manner. Rick Hollow (sp) represented WWCR, which was one of two radio stations named by Art Bell in his lawsuit. I believe this is the Nashville station that aired Gunderson's program. Gunderson's attorney sat next to Hollow.
Rick Hollow began. His first obvious intent was to convince the judge that Art Bell is a public figure.
Hollow said that his legal group asked Bell to tell them every time he had been on radio, TV, in newspapers, etc. for the last ten years. He said Bell balked at this request and stated he couldn't be expected to remember all that.
Hollow said that Bell claimed he was syndicated on 480 radio stations with 9 million listeners.
Hollow said that Bell's attorney (Fox? not sure) recently appeared on Good Morning America and on the Art Bell show, speaking about the recent legal activities.
Hollow said that when a person is a public figure, this "leads to scrutiny of character" on a greater scale than if the person was not a public figure.
He gave excerpts from Bell's website, especially articles that mention issues Bell has addressed on his program, showing that he focused on more than just the nighttime "insomniac niche" who enjoy hearing about "UFO's, ghosts, vampire monkeys" etc.
He said that Art Bell is ranked fourth after Dr. Laura, Howard Stern, and Rush Limbaugh.
He attacked Bell's claim that after 12/97 (when Gunderson's show aired with allegations against Bell), his audience "shrunk."
Fox said that Bell is a "person of notoriety". He tried to explain the legal difference between a "general, all-purpose public figure" versus a "limited purpose public figure." He said that the "general, all -purpose" terminology is reserved for presidents, senators, and the like, who address many issues of public concern.
He said that "limited public figure" applies to rock stars, athletes and the like, who have status in the public eye basically because of one issue or talent.
Fox said there is a "quantum leap" between Dr. Laura, Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Art Bell.
The judge mentioned that there is no need for a person to be known nationwide to be a public figure. She asked how the program was set up and where it was aired.
One of the attorneys said that Hickson (sp), who made the allegations against Bell on the Gunderson Intelligence Report radio show on 12/9/97, was speaking by phone in Idaho. Gunderson was physically located "in the desert" near Las Vegas, and the program aired in Nashville.
The judge asked how many people in the Nashville area know Art Bell as a person, not as a personality?
There was discussion on this.
Fox told the judge that unlike Dr. Laura, Art Bell doesn't talk about his family, and until recently, chose not to talk about it.
The judge asked Hollow's opinion concerning "limited purpose public figure" status possibly applying to Bell.
Hollow quoted more figures showing Bell's popularity, number of listeners, etc. He mentioned that Bell's website showed over 58 million hits.
Hollow stated that allegations "go to the core of a person's character" if true, and therefore are important.
The judge stated that Bell is, for all purposes, a public figure.
Fox changed the subject and mentioned a dated Tennessee statute that said when a broadcast is liable for defamatory statements as a "lack of due care", when alleged by the plaintiff in a lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the defendant.
Hollow quoted from a later case, mentioning that it had changed the previous ruling somewhat.
He then stated that "constitutional malice" is when an allegation is "known to be false" or is made "in reckless regard." He talked about "subjective awareness of probable falsehood."
One of the attorneys said that Gunderson claimed that Hixson, who made the allegations, was a "reliable and trustworthy informer."
Hollow said that David Hickson had developed a product called "Water Oz (sp)." Hollow speculated about why allegations were made by a former female business partner who later claimed that Hickson bragged about how he was going to ruin Bell. Hickson allegedly said this during the time he made the public allegations against Bell. Hollow tried to convince the judge that the female partner may not have been trustworthy in her claims because she was upset with Hickson about his not giving her money and services he had promised her as part of their business arrangement.
Hollow said that during the aired allegation, Hickson named an "Art Bell" without clarifying whether he was Jr. or Sr. He eventually explained that it was all a basic mix-up, that the child molestation report was of younger Bell being a victim, instead of senior Bell being a perp. There was also confusion about why the records weren't made public; this is possibly because the young Bell was a minor and therefore, the records of his kidnapping and assault were sealed.
Hollow said that Mr. McClintock (sp), who I believe owned or was general manager of the Nashville station, stated that he'd heard "rumors" about Art Bell. Hollow said that Hickson had been on the air before as McClintock's guest.
Hollow said that Hickson had had a previous "relationship" with the station from June 1995 through September 1995, during which time he'd made "statements critical of Bell."
He denied that there was a conspiracy linking Hickson, Gunderson and McClintock against Art Bell.
He said that Gunderson's show had been a "remotely broadcast program." He said there was an uplink via satellite. He said there is no liability to the distributor, unless the distributor KNEW statements were defamatory. He said, paraphrased, that the station's stance was that the incidence had consisted of "120 seconds of exchange in live broadcast, no script, extemporaneous, the claims were not made by an employee, nor a guest." He complained that the personnel at the radio station shouldn't have to act as "gatekeeper" or "censor."
The judge reminded Hollow that "McClintock had the ability to cut it off."
Hollow admitted that such a physical switch did exist.
He again insisted that the action was "not defamatory." He said this is a matter of "constitutional law." He said "an investigation was carried out, and it was determined [the allegations] were untrue." He said the investigation was done after Art Bell's attorney contacted the station.
Hollow claimed that Gunderson had been in control entirely, during that program.
Gunderson's attorney spoke next. He said that there was one thing that nobody in the courtroom seemed to be willing to say, so he would: there is "no proof that Art Bell isn't a child molester."
Gunderson's attorney said that people like Bell shouldn't be accused of things on the air due to their being so well-known. He said, "As soon as [Bell's] name was mentioned [on air], we should have done something."
He submitted a "letter," unread, from Sue Ford (aka Brice Taylor) to the judge.
He showed Judge Shipley a printout of the Internet website "data dump" on Gunderson, about his allegations, Bell's lawsuit, etc.
He mentioned a claim being made on the Internet by someone I believe he called "Graywolf", saying that Gunderson is a pedophile.
He didn't clarify why he said and showed these articles to the judge.
Fox spoke again. He emphasized that Bell wants a jury trial.
He said that Hickson had a show of his own on the radio station. He said that Gunderson had been a guest on Hickson's show three times, and that Hickson had been a guest on Gunderson's show. (Hollow had previously tried to convince the judge that Gunderson and Hickson hadn't known each other well enough to conspire against Bell.)
Fox said that David Hickson had sent his water product to Art Bell for potential endorsement. That didn't develop. He said that Gunderson had claimed -- I believe on air the night of Hickson's allegations -- that Gunderson had tried to contact Art Bell to be on his show, but said that Art Bell had turned him down. Fox said that Art had not been contacted by Gunderson by phone as he had claimed.
Fox read from what seemed to be a transcript of the show, that indicated that Gunderson seemed to be encouraging Hickson to defame Bell.
One of the attorneys quoted Gunderson as saying, "I don't say anything on air unless it's proven fact."
Fox said that the program director and general manager work at the station full time. He said McClintock was present when the broadcast was aired, and a board operator was also there. And yet no one flipped the switch to interrupt the airing of Hickson's allegations.
He mentioned that Gunderson, a former FBI agent and investigator, was well trained in being careful about what to say and when.
Fox said that the station is saying, "You can get so reckless that you're exempt from being reckless."
Hollow said that Fox was asking the station to "apply negligence standard to an actual malice case."
After a short recess, the judge reentered the courtroom and voiced her decisions.
1) Her first decision was about whether or not Art Bell is a public figure. She said he is, "for all purposes." She said her decision is a matter of law, not just for the summary judgment level. She said that this decision "raises the bar that [Bell] must show the defamation was false."
2) Her second decision is that malice existed. She said that this is only "for the summary judgment level."
3) She addressed the question of whether McClintock was knowledgeable of the information alleged by Hickson and whether management showed reckless disregard. She said she would not make any finding on this at this time. Too much yet to be argued, proven, etc. for this hearing.
She and the attorneys agreed to have a telephone conference on May 25th in the morning. Hollow volunteered to initiate the conference. At that time they will set a trial date to "control the amount of discovery that needs to be done."
Outside the courtroom, several people told me that the trial would be held in California.
The most personally shocking statement made during the hearing was from Gunderson's attorney. As previously reported, he stated that -- even though Hollow had already admitted that his legal team had investigated and found Hickson's allegations about Bell to be false -- "There's no proof that Art Bell isn't a child molester." What I got from his words is this: "As a citizen, I don't have to give any evidence that any person is a pedophile, to suggest that he/she is. I can slander him or her as long as I want, wherever I want, as often as I want. After all, I'm covered: the remotest chance that I could be guessing correctly is proof enough." I'm glad most people aren't like that man.
report by Katherine Sullivan © 2000
--------------- Accurate impartial advice on everything from laptops to table saws. ------------------------------------
To Post a message, send it to:
To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:


This Site Served by TheHostPros