Posts Tagged ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Jack Thompson at it again

Perennial anti-videogame action-filer (and Overlawyered favorite) Jack Thompson is at it again, this time in Louisiana:

Acting on a Florida lawyer’s suggestion that violent video games may have figured in Tuesday’s slaying of a West Feliciana Parish man, sheriff’s deputies searched the home of one teenage suspect again on Thursday.

West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Capt. Spence Dilworth said deputies seized several video games rated “M” for “Mature” from the residence of Kurt Edward Neher, 16, but the detective said he is not drawing any conclusions from his findings.

Thompson says “published reports of Gore’s injuries ‘raised a red flag’ in his, Thompson’s, mind.” For instance? Well, reports that the youths killed their victim because he would not lend them his car reminded Thompson of scenarios in “Grand Theft Auto”, and that “the apparent repeated ‘pummeling’ of the victim is consistent with scenes in violent video games.” Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, responded in a rather restrained fashion, pointing out that “Violent crime involving kids predates video games”. (James Minton, “Video games seized from teen’s home”, Baton Rouge Advocate, Jun. 3).

Jack Thompson update: Florida bar latest target

Overlawyered favorite Jack Thompson has followed through his threat to sue the Florida Bar for daring to investigate him for ethical violations. He also complained to the interim U.S. Attorney, who punted to the FBI, which will likely give the complaint the sound ignoring it deserves. The Daily Business Review story for some reason refers to the Alabama suit against video game “Grand Theft Auto,” which we had previously reported Jack Thompson had quit. (Carl Jones, “Anti-Porn Crusader Sues Over Bar Probe”, Daily Business Review, Apr. 14).

Update: Grand Theft Auto suits

Now the shareholder lawyers are piling on: class-actioneers Milberg Weiss and Stull, Stull & Brody would like to represent “people who owned Take-Two shares between Oct. 25, 2004, the launch of ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,’ and Jan. 27, 2006, the day that Los Angeles’ city attorney sued Take-Two for selling pornographic video games to children.” (“More legal woes for ‘Grand Theft Auto’ maker”, Reuters, Feb. 15). Earlier coverage: Jan. 28, Jul. 27, etc.

Grand Theft Auto update

We told you about the first civil lawsuit Jul. 27 after predicting it Jul. 16. By popular demand, we note that the LA District Attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, has jumped on the bandwagon, presumably for publicity for his campaign for state attorney general against Jerry Brown. Of course, lawsuits like this aren’t the way to persuade people that he’s any more serious a candidate than Governor Moonbeam, though it doesn’t hurt when not a single mainstream media outlet questions the legitimacy of the suit. Brian Doherty of Hit & Run comments. Lawsuits like this are an effective means of censorship: if politically unpopular speech can be bankrupted with a thousand paper cuts of trumped-up “consumer protection” suits, it will be as chilling as any libel action.

(Full disclosure: Delgadillo and I both worked at different times for O’Melveny & Meyers LLP, where Warren Christopher was Delgadillo’s mentor and once pointed me the right direction to the men’s room.)

Jack Thompson quits Grand Theft Auto case

“Jack Thompson, the colorful Miami attorney who has become synonymous with lawsuits against video game companies, withdrew as the attorney for the plaintiffs in Fayette’s video game trial.”

…Thompson’s withdrawal comes after a hearing on a motion from the defense attorneys, who represent video game manufacturers and distributors, to revoke Thompson’s privilege to practice law in Alabama during the case. Judge James Moore granted Thompson, pro hac vice, the legal term for the temporary privilege, when the suit was filed.

Defense Attorney Jim Smith claimed that Thompson bombarded him, his co-counsel Rebecca Ward and his law firm, Blank Rome, with threatening and harassing e-mails and letters. He also accused Thompson of violating legal ethics, misrepresenting an alleged past history of disciplinary problems and attempting to poison the jury pool with frequent press releases and appearances in the news media….

Since defense attorneys filed the motion, Thompson has claimed they were “coming after” him. He said Blank Rome’s strategy has always been to attack its opponents.

(“Robert DeWitt, “Attorney in Fayette case bows out”, Tuscaloosa News, Nov. 8). More coverage: IGN,, GameSpot News, The Inquirer. For more on Thompson’s antics, see Feb. 19, Oct. 21, etc.

More on the Grand Theft Auto lawsuit

A reader asks about yesterday’s post:

  • Shouldn’t the 85-year-old grandmother &/or the 14-year-old’s parents (where are the 14-year-old’s parents, please?) be hauled into court and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor? If this was a grandfather, he likely would be in court on charges ….
  • Has anyone asked the 14-year-old how, where, or from whom he got the extra scenes for the game??
  • Said grandmother is now lead plaintiff in class-action lawsuit against game’s maker and others, claiming . . . what?
  • How soon will this lawsuit be thrown out; how soon will it be declared “frivolous,” and how soon will the lawyers and the legal firm who filed this suit be either disbarred or sanctioned (or should they be punished at all)?
  1. There’s no reason to charge anyone with delinquency of a minor. One can question the grandmother’s or parents’ wisdom, but they’re allowed to expose their kids to R-rated material. The distributors of the modification to the game might have trouble if they aren’t screening for age, but no one seems to seek to go after the shallow pocket.
  2. The complaint makes no effort to claim that the kid ever had or accessed the extra scenes. I suspect the lawyers will claim that they don’t need to prove that to collect damages. They’re alleging the grandmother was deceived, that the defendants engaged in false advertising, that she wouldn’t have purchased a game if she had known about the hidden sex scenes, and that disgorgement of profits is appropriate—and not that the grandmother or the grandson was actually harmed in any way. I’ve made the nine-page complaint available on the Documents in the News page on the AEI Liability Project web site.
  3. One hopes the lawsuit will be thrown out eventually, but the Pelman decision (Jan. 27) means that the lawsuit almost certainly won’t be held frivolous or result in sanctions or in anyone being disbarred. But that says more about Pelman and the sorry state of the law than the value of this lawsuit. See Michael Greve’s discussion of the issue in “‘Harm-Less’ Lawsuits?”

And now the lawsuits…

As we predicted on July 16, the ridiculous lawsuits over the Grand Theft Auto video game “scandal” have begun. The lead plaintiff in the putative class action is an 85-year-old grandmother, Florence Cohen, who bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson, who may have his own claims for emotional distress when his ninth-grade classmates beat him up. I suspect the eventual lead-plaintiff deposition I imagined is likely to be more entertaining than the game itself.

“Laurence D. Paskowitz, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cohen, said no parent would knowingly buy an adult-only video game for their children.” Because a “M-for-Mature” 17-or-over game featuring graphic violence, profanity, and “strong sexual content” is so much more appropriate. The sex scenes that are the subject of the lawsuit are only available by taking affirmative steps to download a modification from the Internet and install it: if her 14-year-old grandson has that much freedom with a computer to be able to experience the pixeled sex (an allegation that is missing from press accounts), what else is he downloading?

The Class Action Fairness Act is already paying dividends; the case was filed in federal court, which increases the likelihood that federal judges will correctly decide that class certification is inappropriate. (AP, “Grandmother sues maker of ‘Grand Theft Auto'”, Jul. 27; hat-tip to W.F. and A.B.). Update: Jul. 28.

Grand Theft Auto “Hot Coffee Mod”

Bill Clinton made a name for himself as a moderate by criticizing violent rap in 1992, and Hillary is following in his footsteps with what ALOTT5MA’s “Phil Throckmorton” calls “an executive-quality display of deep moral concern” over an alleged modification possible in the popular “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” video game that makes the simulated sex in the game somewhat more explicit, and thus worthy of an “AO” Adults Only rating instead of a “M” Mature rating. (Under the voluntary system, AO is 18+, while M is 17+.)

Me, I’m just amused by the thought of class action attorneys trolling for a named plaintiff parent who will testify that, while she was okay for her little Johnny to buy a game involving drug dealing, gambling, carjacking, cop-shooting, prostitution, throat-slashing, baseball-bat beatings, drive-by shootings, street-racing, gang wars, profanity-laced rap music, homosexual lovers’ quarrels, blood and gore, and “Strong Sexual Content,” she is shocked, shocked to learn that the game also includes an animation at about the level of a Ken doll rubbing up against an unclothed Barbie doll with X-rated sound effects, and is thus a victim of both consumer fraud and intense emotional distress, entitled to actual and punitive damages totalling $74,999 per identically-situated class member in the state. The Grand Theft Auto series has already been the target of some pretty silly suits (Feb. 19 and links therein), and we can pretty much expect the trend to continue. (And I beg the eventual defense attorney to pass along a public version of the deposition of the stooge named plaintiff, which will have tremendous entertainment value.) One is hopeful that the Class Action Fairness Act will give Take-Two Interactive Software the backbone to resist the extortion attempt. But if not, expect to see $5 coupons for the next edition of Grand Theft Auto in the offing.

Update: Reason’s Daniel Koffler notes “[T]oday, kids might only be able to download explicit content into their video games, but given a few years and a couple of leaps in technology, they might even be able to find hardcore pornography on the Internet.”

Put the blame on games, cont’d

Devin Thompson, 16 at the time, is charged with murdering two Fayette, Ala. policemen and an emergency dispatcher in June 2003. Now members of the victims’ families are suing the maker of the Grand Theft Auto video game, retailers Wal-Mart and Gamestop, and Sony, which manufactures the PlayStation, as well as Thompson himself, on the grounds that the violent game “trained” the teen to commit the real-life killings. Representing the families, if you haven’t already guessed, is attorney Jack Thompson, whose anti-videogame crusade has for years provided material for these columns (Sept. 26 and Dec. 17, 2003, etc.)(Johnny Kampis, “Lawsuit claims video violence precipitated Fayette police shootings”, Tuscaloosa News, Feb. 15; Tony Smith, “Grand Theft Auto firm faces ‘murder training’ lawsuit”, The Register (UK), Feb. 17). More: “The supporters [of anti-videogame government action] think violent games produce violent teens, but the evidence is lacking.” (Steve Chapman, “Violent video games and Illinois’ loopy legislators”, syndicated/Chicago Tribune, Mar. 20)

Haiti to France: pay us $21,685,135,571.48

Reparations madness, cont’d: almost 200 years after a slave revolt won Haiti’s independence, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide “has launched a controversial campaign to get France to repay its former colony billions of dollars in restitution. And he has already sent Paris a bill, down to the very last cent: $21,685,135,571.48.” A legal adviser to the Aristide administration is considering taking the case to international court (Jacqueline Charles, “Aristide pushes for restitution from France”, Miami Herald, Dec. 18; Henry Samuel, “You owe us $21,685,135,571.48”, Daily Telegraph (UK), Oct. 8; “The sad bicentennial of a once fabulous sugar colony”, The Economist, Dec. 18). No word yet on whether any reparations will be offered in the opposite direction for the 1804 massacres during which newly emergent strongman Jean-Jacques Dessalines ordered the slaughter of almost the entire French population resident in Haiti, an estimated 20,000 persons. (Update: another side of the story from Tunku Varadarajan, who argues that the government of France really was “first a brutal colonizer, and then a usurious bully”.)

In other news, the highly popular videogame “Vice City”, part of the Grand Theft Auto series, has drawn fire from New York and Florida officials “and from the government of Haiti, which has threatened to sue the game’s manufacturer, New York-based Rockstar Games, its parent company, Take 2 Interactive Software Inc., and the game’s distributors. A Miami lawyer representing the Haitian government said the game violates the hate crime laws of Florida and other states. ‘It’s the kind of thing that has no business being sold because it’s not just a game,’ attorney Ira Kurzban told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. ‘It’s a teaching device for young kids and high school students. What is it teaching them? Violence, hatred and racism.'” (“Haitian, Cuban Leaders Denounce ‘Grand Theft Auto'”, WTVJ South Florida, Dec. 16). More on videogame lawsuits: Sept. 26 and links from there.