Controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson appears to be burning bridges in Louisiana, the state where he has enjoyed the most success to date in his long-standing crusade against violent video games.
A series of e-mails forwarded to GamePolitics by Thompson detail a rapidly deteriorating relationship with the office of Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti. Foti is a named defendant in ESA/EMA vs. Foti, the video game industry's constitutional challenge to the state's recently-passed video game law.
In particular, the mercurial Thompson expresses frustration with Deputy A.G. Burton Guidry, the man leading Louisiana's defense against the game industry's lawsuit. Hitherto, Guidry has been extremely supportive of the video game statute in his public comments, vowing on behalf of A.G. Foti to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if need be.
Based on Thompson's e-mails, however, the working relationship between the Louisiana Attorney General's Office and the controversial Miami lawyer apparently began unraveling early yesterday morning. At 5:56 A.M. Thompson messaged Guidry, his secretary and Rep. Roy Burrell, sponsor of Louisiana's video game bill, matter-of-factly asking for a status report on the case.
Guidry replied by e-mail a few hours later. Included in his update was what appears to be a diplomatically-worded admonition to Thompson to work through channels:
"Waiting on ct decision re prel injunction. Also have issued initial discovery interrogatories re rating system."
"Have received info that someone on your behalf has contacted cops program for support indicating they were working for state of la. Please cease all activity of this type without prior approval of our office. We appreciate your enthusiasm but all activity regarding la state interests must be cleared thru gen foti."
Translation: Guidry is waiting for Federal Judge James Brady to rule on the game industry's request for a preliminary injunction. In preparation for arguing the case he has also begun the process of seeking information on how the ESRB rates games.
The "cops program" is believed to be Concerns of Police Survivors, a national organization that provides aid, counseling and assistance to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. GP readers may recall that Thompson's recent attempt to submit an Amicus Curiae brief to the court was summarily rejected, in part because he had not named on whose behalf he was acting, beyond unspecified law enforcement personnel and education groups. Associating the amicus brief with COPS would appear to be Thompson's attempt to rectify that legal shortcoming.
Thompson's reply to Guidry's e-mail was swift - and harsh.
"You're way, way out of line... I am seeking to be amicus in this case, per the request weeks ago, from the Governor's Office, that I assist in trying to get this law declared constitutional."
"Your office, on the other hand, has thwarted my efforts to help in that regard, most recently by your bizarre request that I not contact COPS to see if it might light (sic) to be my amicus. I have had a relationship with COPS before I ever heard of you all and this bill."
Thompson also chided Guidry for not contacting "four experts" suggested by the Miami attorney as potential witnesses in the case. Thompson added, "I have REPEATEDLY asked you and your office to provide me information as to the status of the case, the name of a Louisiana lawyer who might be able to serve as co-counsel for amicus, and also why the court summarily and preliminarily, denied my amicus request... "
Thompson also implies that Guidry's office is not putting forth its maximum effort on the case.
"...There are lives at stake, and your office is acting as if this is some sort of debate over the tax code... Here you are freezing out the guy who wrote the bill..."
Later on Sunday, Thompson copied GamePolitics on a letter which he apparently faxed to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. Gov. Blanco, readers may recall, signed the video game bill into law, thus triggering the constitutional challenge by the video game industry. Thompson's fax to the Governor includes:
"...I wrote the bill... I testified... You then signed this bill into law... Terry Ryder of your office specifically asked me... to assist... that this constitutional law would be defended adequately in the face of the violent video game industry's assault upon it in federal court."
Terry Ryder is listed as Gov. Blanco's Executive Counsel on her official website.
"I regret to inform you," Thompson continues, "that... your Attorney General's office has utterly dropped the ball... I would respectfully suggest that you... tell your Attorney General, Mr. Foti, either to do his job or get out of the way so that others can do it for him."
Asked whether he was concerned about burning bridges with Louisiana officials, Thompson's terse reply to GP via e-mail read simply, "There are no bridges."
E-mail requests for comment from Deputy A.G. Guidry, Rep. Burrell, and Exective Counsel Terry Ryder were not answered by press time. In all fairness, their respective offices were closed on Sunday as we assembled this story. GP will, of course, report any comments received from Louisiana officials on this matter.