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A judge and former prosecutor claims he helped create the Emmy-winning HBO series “The Sopranos,” but got iced out of the profits. Robert Baer wants a court to order series creator David Chase to pay up. Now. Baer, the municipal court judge in Prospect Park, N.J., and a former assistant prosecutor in Union and Hudson counties, claims he suggested a TV show about organized crime in New Jersey and met repeatedly with Chase to give him a crash course on the North Jersey mob. Baer says he even critiqued an early draft of the show’s pilot episode for Chase. He claims he and Chase made an oral agreement that if the show took off, Baer would be “appropriately compensated.” But once the show was sold to the cable network and became a success, Baer claims, it became a one-man deal. “My client is responsible for the concept of ‘The Sopranos,’” Baer’s lawyer, Harley Breite said. “But for his invaluable contributions, there would be no ‘Sopranos.’” Chase’s lawyer, Michael Gendler, said Thursday: “We make it a policy not to comment on frivolous or meritless claims.” HBO referred inquiries to Gendler. Baer met Chase in 1995 through a mutual friend, Joseph Urbanczyk, who’s known Baer since kindergarten. Urbanczyk, a camera operator in Hollywood, described the conflict between the men as “a very ugly situation” and said Chase turned his back on Baer when he found success. Baer did not return a call left at his municipal court office Thursday. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. It asserts that during a three-hour lunch at a Santa Monica, Calif., restaurant, Baer regaled Chase with tales of organized crime exploits in northern New Jersey, and suggested that they set the series in Elizabeth. “That’s the reason why on the opening credits, you see the turnpike sign for the Elizabeth exit,” Breite said. Many of the show’s exterior shots were filmed in Elizabeth’s predominantly Italian Peterstown section. The lawsuit claims Chase later made dozens of phone calls to Baer at his Wayne home to ask questions about the mob in New Jersey. Chase even sent Baer a rough draft of the proposed first episode, which Baer reviewed over the phone and in writing, according to the lawsuit. Baer still has the copy of the script. Breite said Baer tried several times to contact Chase after the show was sold to HBO, but was met by silence. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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