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Will Suzen Johnson’s battle with the Globe tabloid finally come to an end? The Palm Beach-based TWA flight attendant, who made headlines in 1997 for having had an affair with sports broadcaster Frank Gifford, is demanding half of the estimated $100 million the Globe received from 33 stories it ran about Johnson’s tryst with Gifford, who is married to celebrity Kathi Lee Gifford. Johnson says the paper violated a contract with her.The tabloid Tuesday asked federal trial Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp to dismiss the contract claim � the last of 10 Johnson originally made in her complaint filed last June. But while the judge ponders whether to dismiss the last of the claims, he also has opened the door to reviving an old complaint � that the paper fraudulently induced her to sign an agreement for the exclusive rights to her story “in perpetuity.” She accused the Globe of promising her $50,000 for the rights to her story but paying only $25,000 and falsely misrepresenting that the Giffords “were coming after her.” “In truth, it was only for the Globe’s protection and profits,” wrote her lawyer J.B. Harris of Coral Gables. The Globe attacked the charge, asking Ryskamp to dismiss the suit. The judge complied in an October 1999 order, saying Johnson failed to show that the Globe “knowingly made false statements” at the time the Johnson-Globe deal was signed, Ryskamp said. Furthermore, Ryskamp said the contract � which promised Johnson money after she slept with Gifford and told her story � in essence amounted to prostitution and was, therefore, illegal and unenforceable. But now Ryskamp may have re-opened the door to the fraud claim. On June 15, the judge � at Johnson’s urging � ordered Globe attorneys to produce previously undisclosed documents that they had argued were protected by attorney-client privilege. These recently disclosed documents � which are under court seal � provide new evidence to support Johnson’s fraud case, says Harris. “This could lead to punitive damages.” Harris would not elaborate on the contents of the documents because the attorneys are under a gag order not to talk about them. In ordering that the documents be presented, Ryskamp wrote that even if the documents contained privileged communications, the “crime-fraud exception” takes them beyond attorney-client protection. The way Harris sees it, the judge’s citing of possible crime-fraud is an invitation to re-plead the fraud claim. He filed Johnson’s request to reinstate fraud against the Globe last week. No date has been set for a hearing. The legal battle stems from Johnson’s three sexual encounters with Gifford during April and May of 1997. The pair met on a 1993 flight, according to court records. The Globe got wind of the romance through Johnson’s cousin Braden Keil, who was then involved with Globe editor Candace Trunzo, Johnson told the Review. Johnson says the Globe urged her to go public and to bug a New York hotel love nest to verify the relationship. She agreed. But first she cut a deal with the tabloid. Another deal was struck on May 22, 1997, when she signed a contract requiring the Globe to initially pay her $25,000 and later, another $50,000, according to court documents. Johnson says she thought there would be only one Globe story, not 33 consecutive stories. “The opposition [ Globe lawyers] must be biting their lips when they say they sell only magazines, not stories,” Harris told Ryskamp. That’s absurd and laughable, he added. “This story [Gifford-Johnson affair] put the Globe on the map and made them a household name.” But Johnson’s 18-month silence before making this claim “speaks volumes,” said the Globe’s lead attorney, Amy D. Hogue of Pillsbury Madison & Sutro of Los Angeles. Hogue accused Johnson’s lawyer of inventing the contract claim. Mark J. Neuberger, of Buchanan Ingersoll in Aventura, co-chair’s the Globe’s defense. Johnson also breached the agreement with Globe by “walking across the street and selling the story to the National Enquirer for $75,000,” added Hogue. That’s when the National Enquirer sued Globe International Inc. The pair settled when the Enquirer’s parent company, Boca Raton-based American Media Inc., acquired the Globe in November 1999. Harris expects Ryskamp to rule on the Globe’s motion to dismiss the contract claim within a few days. No date has been set for arguing the motion to revive the fraud count. Ryskamp has ordered mediation and put the case on his October trial calendar, says Harris.

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