SUIT CASTS DOUBT ON GREAT WHITE STATION DONATIONS:
June 17, 2005
PROVIDENCE — A legal battle in California continues to raise questions about whether Great White handed over all the tour proceeds it promised to give a fund for victims of The Station nightclub fire.
On June 8, a California judge reaffirmed his decision to throw out a $10-million slander suit that Great White lead singer Jack Russell filed against a former spokeswoman who questioned whether the band was meeting its commitments to The Station Family Fund.
Russell’s lawyer, Edwin F. McPherson, had asked the judge to reconsider his earlier decision, claiming the signature on a key document was a “complete forgery.”
But the judge concluded the signature of former Great White tour manager Craig Bradford was genuine. And that document echoes former spokeswoman Charrie L. Foglio’s contention that Great White was not handing over all tour proceeds it had promised The Station Family Fund.
On Feb. 20, 2003, Great White began its show at the West Warwick nightclub with pyrotechnics, sparking a blaze that killed 100 people and injured more than 200. Later that year, the band went on a 41-city tour to raise money for The Station Family Fund.
The Sept. 1, 2003, document states that it was Bradford’s understanding from the beginning of the tour that Great White’s expenses would be limited to $5,000 per show, and all proceeds above that amount would go to The Station Family Fund.
“On the weekend of August 7th thru the 10th Great White was contracted for four shows for a total of $35,000,” the document states. A “recap” by band manager Obi Steinman “only showed a total of $8,000 for band/promoter donations going to The Station Family Fund. According to the original agreement The Station Family Fund should have received $15,000,” the document states.
McPherson called that document a fraud, saying Great White lived up to its commitments to The Station Family Fund. He said the only agreement was that the band would pay expenses and give all profits to the fund, and he said that’s what happened.
In his slander suit, Russell accused Foglio of telling people that he and Steinman were “stealing” and “embezzling” tour revenue that was supposed to go to the fund. The suit claimed Foglio made those statements to the press and to fund organizers after she was fired as the band’s publicist.
Foglio said she was the band’s co-manager, not its publicist. She said she quit, and she said she never claimed Russell and Steinman were “stealing” or “embezzling.”
On March 4, Judge Robert L. Hess of California Superior Court in Los Angeles County tossed out Russell’s slander suit, saying the singer was a public figure who had failed to show “constitutional malice.”
Russell’s lawyer, McPherson, filed a motion for reconsideration and submitted a statement in which Bradford said, “The signature on that declaration is a complete forgery, and the purported facts contained in the declaration are not true.” Hess asked McPherson to make sure Bradford appeared at a June 6 hearing. But Bradford didn’t show up.
According to the judge’s decision, McPherson argued that Foglio had left voice-mail messages that “so frightened and intimidated Mr. Bradford that he was afraid to come to testify.” Also, McPherson said Bradford was so angry that a May 20 hearing had been postponed that he refused to come on June 6.
Hess said, “These arguments are not credible. The court finds the two reasons proferred are mutually exclusive.
“What does ring true,” Hess wrote, “is the statement in [McPherson’s] declaration that Mr. Bradford didn’t want to have any further involvement with this case. If, as the court has found, Mr. Bradford’s signature was genuine, then his declaration was false, and his reluctance to be put under oath in the courtroom is understandable. The court finds this is the true reason for Mr. Bradford’s non-appearance.”
Hess said he found the testimony of Foglio’s handwriting expert “highly persuasive,” and “in the absence of live testimony to the contrary from Mr. Bradford,” he concluded the signature was genuine.
In an interview, Foglio said she feels vindicated. “Everything they accused me of is not true,” she said. “They were absolutely trying to bury me with stuff they knew was a lie. Forgery is a criminal offense punishable by jail time. They wanted to save their butts at any cost. They knew they did something wrong.”
Foglio said The Station Family Fund owes her an apology. She noted the fund’s president, Victoria L. Potvin, had said she was not aware of a cap on Great White’s expenses, and in a document submitted to the court, Potvin said that after speaking with Steinman, “we were satisfied that there were no improprieties.”
Yet, Foglio said, it was Potvin who originally asked her why the fund was receiving less money than expected. “She started this and now she’s hiding from it because she chose the wrong side of the fence,” Foglio said. “I stepped up to help them and look what happened to me.”
Potvin said, “I don’t know what I could possibly apologize for because I have only spoken the truth.” She said, “As far as we’re concerned, the explanation of what was happening with the money was satisfactory.”
Potvin said the fund doesn’t want to be a part of a “negative controversy.” She said, “It’s difficult enough to raise money for a nonprofit. I wish people would move on.”
McPherson said, “The hearing had nothing to do with what is true or false. It’s a SLAPP [Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation] statute in California that severely limits the plaintiff in a defamation case, and this judge interpreted the statute more broadly than any other I have ever seen.”
McPherson said that while the judge concluded that Bradford’s signature was genuine, “he never got to whether someone may have placed a document under the document that Craig signed.”
Actually, the judge addressed that possibility in a footnote, saying, “This line of questioning lacked any support in Mr. Bradford’s Feb. 15, 2005, declaration, which categorically (and falsely) denied that his signature was genuine.”
McPherson said Russell hasn’t decided whether to appeal.
Courtesy of www.projo.com