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Utah Lawyer Sues Over Superbowl Halftime Show

Utah Lawyer Sues Over Superbowl Halftime Show

Posted - May 21, 2004 at 3:51 p.m.



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Keith McCord ReportingRemember Janet Jackson's Superbowl "incident" during the halftime show? Well, a Davis County lawyer says CBS didn't warn him, and he sued. The case went to court in Farmington today.

Eric Stephenson is an attorney, and he says CBS's owner Viacom owes him $5,000 in damages due to the content of the Superbowl halftime show. He filed the case in small claims court.

Eric Stephenson: "Basically this case is a 'bait and switch'. They told me to expect a family show, and it wasn't a family show."

We all know what happened at the end of the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake dance number. Following the incident, CBS apologized; so did MTV and Janet Jackson. Statements condemning the show were also issued by the NFL, FCC, the White House and others.

During his 40-minute presentation this morning, attorney Stephenson presented more than 20 exhibits, including photos and video tapes-- he also recited some of the lyrics-- supporting his claim that the show was not for the entire family.

Eric Stephenson: "It was offensive, but it was it was much more than that. It had sexual acts on stages, it had vulgar language, nothing that's appropriate for children."

Stephenson claims that he should be awarded damages based on the Truth in Advertising Act. He claims he "consumed the product" and had to pay for it, because he subscribed to a cable TV service. In summation, Stephenson said, "I wouldn't have watched if I had known this was coming."

Viacom's attorneys said the case should be dismissed for a number of reasons. For one, they say the Superbowl is a free broadcast on CBS. And while the halftime show did generate a lot of concern, the content is still protected under the First Amendment.

Hakeem S. Jeffries, Viacom Attorney: "We're confident that justice will be done and that the court will resolve this matter in our favor."

Judge Jerald Jenson took the case under advisement, and said he would make a ruling by next Thursday. He could throw it out entirely or refer it to a different court, which was one of the points that the Viacom attorney made, saying small claims court is the wrong venue. Or he could award Stephenson some kind of damages.

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