Court: Comedians Entitled To More Fees In Molestation Tape Dispute

Court: Comedians Entitled To More Fees In Molestation Tape Dispute Melanie Bell 4th DCA

It’s no joke.

A state appellate court ruled Wednesday that a comedy duo can seek additional attorney fees and damages in a case involving a video confrontation with a man one of the comics alleged molested him as a child.

Andrew J. Andrist and Douglas S. Stanhope appealed a decision awarding them only the $100 bond put up by Stephen P. Spleen to obtain an injunction prohibiting the duo from playing the video.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach said Andrist and Stanhope should be able to seek more in fees under exceptions claiming the injunction was sought in bad faith or imposed without an evidentiary hearing on foreseeable damages.

Andrist has been described on his website as a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking comedian. His partner in humor, Douglas S. Stanhope, wrote a book titled “Fun With Pedophiles: The Best of Baiting.”

Andrist is from Eugene, Ore. Stanhope is from Bisbee, Ariz.

Andrist’s website said he filmed a set for the HBO standup show “Jim Norton Down and Dirty” in 2008 but it never aired. He opened the show telling the crowd he was molested by a disabled man when he was 12.

The comedy duo’s attorney, Jonathan Jay Kirschner, a partner at Jonathan Jay Kirschner & Associations in Fort Pierce, said Andrist was molested by his father’s friend, Spleen.

“He invited him to his house and photographed him,” Kirschner said.

With the appellate win in hand, Kirscher said the duo will seek up to $50,000 from Spleen.

Defamation Claim

In November 2012, Stanhope telephoned Spleen, pretending to be a private investigator. He arranged a meeting with Spleen at a hotel under the guise of discussing sensitive knowledge about the man’s college-age daughter.

Spleen showed up for the Nov. 4, 2012, videotaped meeting with his wife and a police officer, saying he was being scammed by Andrist and Stanhope. But the comedians said Spleen admitted the molestation and even apologized on the video.

The police officer turned against Spleen during the video, Kirschner said.

Spleen filed a six-count defamation claim against the comedians in St. Lucie Circuit Court in 2012 and filed a motion for an emergency injunction to keep them from showing the video at their comedy show in West Palm Beach.

Andrist and Stanhope said they were not notified of the hearing and were not present.

Spleen was represented by Garry A. Rooney of Rooney & Rooney in Vero Beach, according to court records. He told the court that “the defendants were engaging in a shameless promotion of their comedy tour,” according to the appellate opinion. A call to Rooney for comment was not returned by deadline.

Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn entered the ex parte temporary injunction and set bond at $100 after Spleen said the defendants were talking about the taped confrontation on a podcast. Florida law requires a bond to be posted in an appropriate amount for costs and damages sustained by the adverse party if wrongfully enjoined.

Nine days later, the comedians filed a verified motion detailing the plaintiff’s alleged molestation, its negative long-term effects, and Spleen’s alleged admission and apology to the defendant on tape.

Circuit Judge Robert E. Belanger, who took over the case from Vaughn, dissolved the injunction.

Andrist and Stanhope then sought damages but were only granted the $100 bond.

The Fourth District ordered Belanger to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine if damages exceeded the $100.

The opinion was written by Judge Melanie May, and Judges Dorian Damoorgian and Martha Warner concurred.

It’s unknown whether the comedy team ever released the video, but Andrist’s website claims he was set to release it in February 2013.

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