News Segment


August 11, 2004

Ted Nugent’s defamation lawsuit against Muskegon Summer Celebration has, as expected, found its way to a Muskegon County court.

The rock star’s case over the cancellation of a 2003 concert landed this week in the lap of Muskegon’s 14th Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks. Last month, a Jackson County judge ordered the case transferred from that county because the dispute arose in Muskegon County.

Nugent initially filed a federal case in Grand Rapids, but both sides agreed it was a state issue. His lawyers then filed in Jackson County, alleging his reputation was damaged and he and manager Doug Banker of Washtenaw County suffered financially.

Summer Celebration officials canceled a contract with Nugent to perform last summer after a pair of disc jockeys in Denver claimed he made a racial slur in a radio interview May 5, 2003.

The DJs cut short the live interview, which was conducted by phone.

A Denver newspaper reported Nugent used “derogatory racial terms for Asians and blacks.” The story was carried by The Associated Press and national radio and television outlets.

Nugent said the statements were “falsely attributed” to him and counter to what he stands for. Some Muskegon-area citizens protested his appearance, Summer Celebration officials claimed.

Also listed as defendants in the suit are Meridian Entertainment Group, a promotion company in Holt that arranged to have Nugent sign with Summer Celebration; Tim Achterhoff, former chairman of Summer Celebration’s board of trustees; and Joe Austin, Summer Celebration’s executive director.

Nugent was contracted to perform June 30, 2003, at Heritage Landing. Court papers indicate the fee was $80,000.

The Rocky Mountain News newspaper in Denver reported the interview focused on guitars until Nugent allegedly used the word “Jap,” to which the radio disc jockeys immediately protested.

Nugent allegedly next used the “N” word when talking about comedian Richard Pryor’s humor, and said that, years ago, one of the Funk Brothers used the term to compliment Nugent’s guitar playing.

The interview then ended.

Nugent’s lawsuit claims Summer Celebration canceled his concert May 16, 2003, “without any notice, or contractual justification.” The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “libel and slander”; economically damaging Nu-gent and Banker by disrupting Nu-gent’s planned concert tour season; breach of contract; “unfair competition” by allegedly continuing to promote Nugent’s concert on Summer Celebration’s Web site after the cancellation; and “unjust enrichment” — profiting from their allegedly wrongful acts.

The plaintiffs seek damages in an amount to be determined by the court and a jury, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.

John S. Hausman courtesy of Muskegon Chronicle