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A South Florida anti-porn crusader says he’s being retaliated against for his high-profile campaigns against the Howard Stern radio show and shoot-’em-up video game Grand Theft Auto. Coral Gables, Fla., attorney Jack Thompson has filed a federal lawsuit against the Florida Bar, alleging it is harassing him by investigating what he calls baseless complaints made by disgruntled opponents in previous disputes. Thompson is known nationally for waging campaigns against violence and sex in the entertainment industry. The bar complaints stem from his involvement in decency crusades against the Stern program and the controversial Grand Theft Auto. “I enjoy doing what I do, and I think I’ve got a First Amendment right to annoy people and participate in the public square in the cultural war,” Thompson says. His five-count complaint asks for more than $1 million in damages. Thompson has also filed a motion with the court to order the mediation of his dispute with the bar. A spokeswoman for the bar says its lawyers only received the complaint on April 11 and were still reviewing it with the bar’s Executive Committee. But the bar confirms that Tallahassee lawyer Barry Richard of Greenberg Traurig will represent it in the case. Richard’s response to Thompson’s complaint is forthcoming, the bar says. “We’re very comfortable with everything that the bar has done,” bar President Alan Bookman says of the bar’s investigation of Thompson. “Everything the bar has done has been appropriate and proper.” The lawsuit alleges the bar is pursuing baseless ethics complaints brought against Thompson by Tew Cardenas attorneys Lawrence Kellogg and Al Cardenas of Miami and by two lawyers from the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome, in violation of Thompson’s constitutional rights. According to the lawsuit, the bar is looking at Thompson for violations of a bar rule that prohibits attorneys from making disparaging remarks about judges, other attorneys, or court personnel. Tew Cardenas is outside counsel to the Naples, Fla.-based Beasley Broadcast Group Inc. The company owns more than three dozen AM and FM radio stations, including WQAM in Miami, which formerly aired “The Howard Stern Show.” Thompson complained to the Federal Communications Commission about the adult-themed content of Stern’s show, which now airs on Sirius Satellite Radio. In a statement Thompson asserts that Tew Cardenas “is upset” that he forced the Stern show off the air in South Florida. Kellogg of Tew Cardenas declined to discuss his complaint to the bar other than to say that it is warranted. Within the past year, Kellogg and Al Cardenas, a past chairman of the Florida Republican Party, have been the subjects of widely distributed criticisms from Thompson about their integrity. “I was justified in filing my bar complaint against Mr. Thompson, and the Florida Bar Grievance Committee has found probable cause that he violated bar rules,” Kellogg says. “I’m now leaving it in the hands of the Florida Bar.” Blank Rome is representing Take-Two Interactive, the maker of Grand Theft Auto, in a wrongful-death suit in an Alabama state court. Thompson says that case should be ready to go to trial in early 2007. “Because proceedings are ongoing, we are not able to comment,” says Blank Rome spokesman Topper Ray. Tony Boggs, the bar’s director of lawyer regulation, says that probable cause has been found in the complaint made by Kellogg. That complaint will now go to the Grievance Committee for further proceedings. In January, Thompson asked the Justice Department to investigate the bar’s actions. “The Florida Bar and its agents have engaged in a documented pattern of this illegal activity, which may sink to the level of criminal racketeering activity, in a knowing and illegal effort to chill my federal First Amendment rights,” Thompson wrote in a letter to Alex Acosta, interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Acosta’s office forwarded the letter to the FBI in Miami for review. “Our office received a citizen’s complaint,” says Alicia Valle, special counsel to the U.S. attorney. “As is our standard practice, we forwarded that complaint to the FBI to determine if an investigation is warranted.” Thompson says he is optimistic his federal lawsuit will be successful. “I’m 100 percent certain that it will effect change; otherwise I would not have filed it,” he says.
Carl Jones is a reporter for the Daily Business Review , the Miami-based ALM publication in which this article first appeared.

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