Thompson countersues Take-Two

Lawyer responds to publisher's lawsuit with accusations of intimidation, obstruction of justice, and violation of his civil rights.

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Last week, Take-Two Interactive filed suit against Florida lawyer Jack Thompson in a preemptive move to keep him from filing his own suits against the publisher to prevent the upcoming releases of its Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt 2 games.

Thompson promised to strike back, and today he filed his response to the Take-Two suit, along with a countersuit accusing the publisher of multiple violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), specifically a continued effort to violate his constitutional rights since July of 2005.

As for his defense in the initial suit, Thompson said it is an attempt by Take-Two to violate his First Amendment right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." The Take-Two suit seeks to have Thompson barred from filing suit to have its games (or any games) declared a public nuisance in Florida. It would be a crime to sell any game declared to be a public nuisance, effectively banning such games in the state. Thompson said the publisher's suit is unnecessary because the law already has protections built into it.

According to Thompson's defense, "Should Thompson improperly bring such an action against the nuisance of selling adult material to children under 17 years of age, there is an adequate remedy available to Take-Two to defeat such an action and to assess costs against Thompson, as provided by the statute itself. Thus, the attempt in this federal action to preempt the state approach which adequately protects both the public and the defendant in such an action if it has been improperly brought."

Thompson also called the publisher's request to be reimbursed for attorney's fees "absurd," noting that Take-Two filed the suit as a preemptive measure, not knowing what the size and scope of the legal battle with Thompson would be over his suit, should he even choose to file one.

As for the publisher's contention that a nuisance suit from Thompson would violate its own First Amendment rights, Thompson said it couldn't.

"All Take-Two would have to do is submit each game to a court of law to see if it contains material harmful to minors or if it does in fact constitute a nuisance of any kind under Florida law. The games are finished. There is plenty of time to submit the games, and doing so will not in fact impede their release--unless they are in fact harmful to children."

Thompson's defense also appears to contain a number of factual errors and misrepresentations. He claims the Entertainment Software Rating Board found that Take-Two Interactive failed to disclose objectionable content in its role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The ESRB said it found developer Bethesda Softworks was at fault in that matter, not Take-Two.

Thompson also said that Bully was found to have "homosexual sex" hidden in the game, about which Take-Two "forgot" to tell the ESRB and the judge in last year's suit over the game's release. The homosexual activity in that game was limited to kissing, and the ESRB said shortly after that game came out that such scenes were considered in issuing it a rating of T for Teen.

When asked by GameSpot about these incongruities and others, Thompson replied "I'm sorry you can't figure these things out."

With his response to the initial suit out of the way, Thompson's countersuit opens with a few pages of background. He positions himself as a defender of civil rights, mentioning receiving threats on his life when he came out in favor of a fair housing law to end segregation in an all-white town in Ohio 38 years ago.

The background also includes a number of contentious remarks about Take-Two before enumerating his accusations. Thompson refers to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as a "violence and sex simulation game" that perpetuates racial stereotypes, asking, "What else would one expect of Scottish sociopaths sipping their single malt Glenlivet in between brainstorming software programming sessions?"

He goes on to mention September 11, accusing the New York City-based publisher of "spewing its pop culture sewage to the world's children" from near the former site of the World Trade Center. Calling depraved US pop culture a recruiting tool for extremists, Thompson asks, "What is America's rebuttal to the Islamic Fascist recruitment call? This counterclaim is the rebuttal, not just to these terrorists but to Take-Two."

Later in the countersuit, Thompson draws parallels between himself and Jeffrey Wigand, the Big Tobacco whistle-blower portrayed by Russell Crowe in The Insider, saying that former Entertainment Software Association president Doug Lowenstein threatened to sue 60 Minutes to keep him from appearing on the program.

As for the actual claims in the countersuit, Thompson levied a number of accusations against the publisher. The countersuit reads, "In addition to the RICO predicate act of extortion (intimidation) of Thompson by Take-Two, Take-Two has committed other predicate RICO acts, including but not limited to fraud, distribution of obscene and/or sexual material harmful to minors, as already determined by the United States Federal government...and other predicate racketeering acts. Additionally, upon information and belief, Take-Two, through its Blank Rome lawyers, sought in Alabama to tamper with a witness in a pending criminal case, according to that witness' lawyer."

Thompson's counterclaim also accuses Take-Two of obstructing justice "by derailing an FBI investigation of its criminal infringement of the civil rights of Thompson by persuading the Justice Department, improperly, to drop that FBI investigation of Take-Two. This conforms to the now known politicization of the Justice Department by the Bush Administration on behalf of political cronies, none of whom is better connected than [Take-Two's legal representation] Blank Rome."

According to Thompson, Take-Two had still more help in breaking the law. The countersuit mentions a number of companies and media outlets--including the ESA, Penny Arcade, and GameSpot--as having collaborated and conspired with Take-Two to commit racketeering activities.

Thompson is seeking to be awarded damages and reimbursement of his legal fees.

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