Last Request


Subject:  last request
Date:  Tue, 16 Sep 2003 18:33:39 -0400
From:  "John Sugg" <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>
To:  <wilson@citicom.com>, <Wilson@foxBGHsuit.com>,<plainjanee@aol.com>
If I receive no response to my previous request (copied below) by 9 p.m. tonight,
I will assume you have no comment. Again, your comments are welcome.
PREVIOUS INQUIRY:
The Florida Division of Consumer Services says there is no exemption as you have 
claimed (for individuals and families). Indeed, among the most common registrations
are those  for families who have suffered tragedies. The only exemptions would require 
that funds be administered by a trustee under the supervision of a circuit 
court judge. The state folks have looked at your solicitations, and say you will have 
to register and provide full records on your fundraising. The civil penalty for not
doing so is as much as $10,000, and there could be criminal charges brought.
Please let me know if you have any comments, or if you have any
substantiation of your claim for an exemption from the registration.
                ______________________________________________________
                "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
                   in the context of professional journalism."
                              -- Hunter S. Thompson
John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241 

 

---9/16-----
[Note: This message is being resent because the original reply minutes ago 
failed to include the cc to Neil Skene]
Look, I've been on an airplane all day and just happened to check my e-mail to 
find your latest message demanding a response within two hours or you threaten to 
assume (and apparently report?) that we have no comment. You asked us if we had any 
explanation to your conclusion that we failed to register with the state.  I gave 
you a prompt response.  Here it is again: <<Individuals or groups who solicit donations 
for a particular individual or family in need are not required to register with the State.
Now, five days later, you write back and demand answers to a number of additional 
questions which are based on what, at first reading, appears to me to be a misinterpretation 
of the law.
I will be happy to review your inquiry with one of our lawyers and get
back to you promptly.  But since you didn't get around to presenting me
with these particular questions until 6:57 p.m. tonight, I obviously
will not be able to do the necessary research and get you an answer
before your 9 p.m. deadline.
I respectfully suggest that for you to report that Jane and I have no 
comment would be wrong, unethical, and malicious.  You HAVE a comment to 
the question you asked me last week.  It is short, simple, and easy to quote. 
The fair thing would be to use it and explain to your readers that your additional 
questions were presented only two hours before your deadline and well after
business hours so we were understandably unable to get you immediate responses to very
technical, legal questions.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: State's position on fundraising
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 18:18:18 -0400
From: Steve Wilson <wilson@citicom.com>
Reply-To: wilson@citicom.com
To: John Sugg <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>
CC: Jane Akre <jakre@bellsouth.net>
References: <BOEEILIIHBKOIOLEALKDCEDECNAA.john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>
You wrote:

> The Florida Division of Consumer Services says there is no exemption 
as you have claimed (for individuals and families).Then, in the very same 
message a few words later, you wrote:

> The only exemptions would require...So, there's no exempetion and then 
you describe what these non-existent exemptions might require?
Let's back up.  You're question to me September 11 was:
<<Do you have an explanation for why you haven't registered?>>
My response on the same date was:
<<Individuals or groups who solicit donations for a particular 
individual or family in need are not required to register with the State.>>
Although my experience with you earlier this month confirms you are not
Ethical enough to honestly and accurately report the responses I give you, 
I have nonethless again responded to your question.  And again, my response
speaks for itself.  I'm sorry it doesn't seem to match your preconceived conclusions
here but I urge you again to be accurate in reporting my response.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: State's position on fundraising
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2003 18:57:05 -0400
From: "John Sugg" <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>
To: <wilson@citicom.com>
CC: "Jane Akre" <jakre@bellsouth.net>
Steve, your reply argues but does not answer. So, please respond before
9 p.m. to:
1. Have you registered?

2. If not, do you have a court-appointed trustee administering your funds,
and is a circuit court judge supervising the funds? If so, please name the 
trustee and which circuit court judge is overseeing the funds.
3. If you do not have a court-appointed trustee supervised by a circuit
court judge, do you claim another form of exemption under Chapter 496 of Florida Statutes?
FYI, below is the relevant portion of the law. To repeat No. 2 above,
Please provide us with the names of the trustee and identify the circuit court if you are 
claiming this exemption, the only one (other than for governmental agencies, which I assume
you don't claim) in Ch. 496.
496.413  Contributions solicited for or accepted on behalf of a named individual.--
(1)  Contributions solicited for, or accepted by or on behalf of, a
named individual must be deposited in a trust account opened by a trustee named 
in a properly established trust document or must be deposited in a depository established 
in accordance with s. 69.031. The circuit court has jurisdiction over the contributed funds 
placed in such depository accounts.
(2)  Disbursements of contributions may be properly made from a trust
account only upon written verification from the trustee that the
disbursement is in furtherance of the purpose for which the funds were
solicited, with documentation reflecting the identity of the proposed
payee and the justification for the proposed payment. Disbursements of
contributed funds from a depository account may be made only as allowed by the court.
When a trust account is to be closed and a balance remains in that
Account in excess of the amount needed for the benefit of the named individual,
such excess funds may be transferred to another trust account for the benefit of
another named individual who is in the same or similar circumstances.
(3)  Any person or organization that violates the provisions of
subsection (1) or subsection (2) is guilty of a felony of the third degree,
punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
 
     ______________________________________________________
     "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity
        in the context of professional journalism."
                      -- Hunter S. Thompson
John Sugg
Senior Editor
Creative Loafing
Atlanta, Georgia
John.sugg@cln.com
404-614-1241
     9 17 sugg on fundraising and the states position  
((this after his boss had been contacted regarding an editorial))
Steve, the question is simple. My emails prior to Tuesday stated that Florida 
officials felt you were not in compliance with registration. 
They have examined your web solicitations. They state -- as I have
relayed to you previously -- that there are no exceptions as you
describe. I found only one in the law, and that provides for both a
trustee and a circuit court to oversee the fundraising.
 
 It's very simple: We know you have not registered, according to state
officials. Do you maintain that you have an exemption? Is it the
exemption requiring a trustee and court oversight; if so, please say who is
 providing such oversight? If not, do you still maintain that you have a valid 
exemption from the law? If so, please state the statutory reference?
 Very simple stuff. You want a few more hours, that's fine. I will wait until 2 p.m. Wednesday.
 -----Original Message-----
From: Steve Wilson [mailto:wilson@citicom.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 1:21 PM
To: John Sugg
Cc: nskene@comcast.net; 'Jane Akre'
Subject: Re: State's position on funraising
I appreciate the more-civil tone as well as the time to adequately
Research and respond to your latest inquiries.
Shown below is our reponse.  For your convenience, it is also attached
as a Word file.
I again appeal to your journalistic ethics and ask, regardless of what
opinion you may wish to express. which is of course your right, please
report our responses accurately and fairly.  And who knows, in light of
this new information you might even wish to re-evaluate your unfounded
suspicions and the false conclusions to which we believe you led your readers earlier.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Statement of Steve Wilson and Jane Akre
We filed suit against Fox and posted our website on April 2, 1998.  We
Did so without any appeal for financial support and rejected all such
offers, prepared to fund the estimated $50,000 out of our personal savings.
Nearly a year later, after we had well surpassed the $50,000 mark and it
 was clear the battle would be longer and many times costlier than our lawyers 
originally estimated, we re-evaluated our situation.  In the Spring of 1999,
 we posted a new page on our website which said, in part:
“When we filed our lawsuit in early 1998, we vowed to each other that
we’d never ask anyone for financial help. We wanted to avoid even the
appearance that we are motivated by personal gain….We hope you agree that
 it is not fair that any single family should shoulder the entire burden of 
waging an expensive legal battle for truth and honesty on the public airwaves,
 especially when the opponent is the biggest, richest media empire in the world.”
There was no suggestion in that posting that we were destitute when we
changed course and invited “all of you who will benefit from our
struggle to help support us in any way you can.”   The support we suggested, 
by the way, included more than helping with legal costs—supporters were also 
urged to lend their time and their talents to send messages directly to Monsanto 
and the mainstream media, as well as invite us to speak to interested groups.
Prior to establishing what we called The Citizens’ Fund for the Right To Know,
 we inquired about what legal requirements, if any, we needed to meet. Just as 
the Florida Bureau of Consumer Assistance states on its website today, we were 
told,  “Individuals or groups who solicit donations for a particular individual
or family in  need are not required to register with the State.”  We were further 
advised to establish  a separate account for gifts received and we did so before we 
invited support and accepted a dime.
Following the overturn of our jury victory, our “Help Jane & Steve” Webpage was updated 
to announce appeal of the appellate court decision. The update—which followed the same 
language about the fairness of any single family shouldering the entire financial burden
of such a battle—said, in part:
“Although not as expensive as the trial, this appeal will run up our legal bills even higher
 at a time we were just hoping to get back on our feet. The cost of appeal to Florida’s 
Supreme Court, if necessary, could be tens of thousands more dollars out of our family
 bank account.”
We did not mean to suggest we were down and out.  The reference to “at a time we 
were just hoping to get back on our feet” was intended to convey that we had hoped 
the matter would have been favorably settled by the court so that we could put all 
of this behind us and get on with our lives on the same footing we had before the struggle began.
“Back on our feet” referred to our hope that the emotional and family turmoil caused 
by the suit would be over, we could both finally resume fulltime our careers with fulltime 
work in our field, and personal decisions about our futures could be made out from under the
cloud of an ongoing and uncertain legal battle.
We have never deliberately misappropriated a dime, as you have suggested by innuendo.  
As we stated in our last response—and you largely ignored—we have painstakingly kept our
 promise that every penny of the money gifted to us for legal expenses has in fact been used 
to pay for nothing but those direct expenses.
Finally, in response to your latest questions about our compliance with state regulations 
related to charities:  As a result of your inquiry, we have determined that  although the 
state website still advises registration is not necessary for individuals who invite donations 
for a particular family in need, we will not only meet all special guidelines required of such
invitations for public support,  we will go a step farther and register our Citizens Fund.
We have nothing to hide and never intended to violate even the spirit of state oversight.  
In fact, we welcome the opportunity to block further wild speculation by immediately complying 
with the obligations outlined to us today by the state official in charge of administering the
 state’s Solicitation of Contributions Act.

RE: Akre/Wilson Statement  
From: "John Sugg" <john.sugg@creativeloafing.com>  
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 14:33:37 -0400  
To: <wilson@citicom.com>  
CC: <plainjanee@aol.com>  

Steve, you have avoided direct answers to most of the really important  
questions. But, first, to correct or clarify one of your statements. I 
don't concur that you have no obligation to register with the state. Your 
fundraising entity, the Citizens' Fund for the Right to Know, gives no 
indication in its name that it is raising funds solely for you or your family.
Florida officials feel that that would be sufficient reason to require you 
register, or, alternatively,change the name to reflect the beneficiaries.

Further, one of the questions you didn't answer was whether you and Jane are 
divorced, a story that reverberates around the TV industry. But, in the event you 
are no longer married (which could be the "mistake" you cited in the records, ETUX 
refering to married individuals), you would probably not qualify under the "individual
or family" exemption. I'm not pursuing that, however. (And before you say it, yes, your
marriage would be of public interest since it is a point that repeatedly stressed in your
own reporting about yourselves.)

What I am pursuing is a very simple answer: What is the mistake(s) you claim 
exist in either the public records pertaining to the home or in my reporting of the records?  

Finally, the court record shows that you acknowledged not filing income tax returns 
for several years. Your reluctance about discussing finances aside, that's in the record. 
Do you dispute it?

 

              ______________________________________________________

              "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity  
                 in the context of professional journalism." 
                            
-- Hunter S. Thompson  

John Sugg  
Senior Editor  
Creative Loafing  
Atlanta, Georgia  
John.sugg@cln.com
 
404-614-1241

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Wilson [mailto:wilson@citicom.com]
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2003 1:08 PM
To: John Sugg
Cc: Neil Skene; Ken Edelstein; Jane Akre
Subject: Akre/Wilson Statement



John,

As with you, I'm very busy and just can't keep devoting time to your
repeated fishing expeditions here.  I trust your 17th and latest e-mail includes the
last of your questions about all this.

Let me again do my best to answer your inquiries: you wrote:

> Your website alludes to $3 million in potential fees for Fox. However, Fox
has  only won fees for the appellate portion of the case -- which will be far,
far  less than $3 million. It has not (yet) sought other fees.  Is the $3 million figure misleading?

No.  I believe your question is based on a misunderstanding of where things
stand now.

First, unless Fox has told you otherwise or has withdrawn its motion and
failed to notify us, still pending at the trial court level is the defendant's
motion for reimbursement of trial court costs and fees.  This motion--along with a
similar one we filed--was held in abeyance by the trial court judge pending
the appeal of the jury verdict.  To this date it has not been withdrawn, as far
as I and our lawyers know.  Since your Fox friends are so kind as to keep feeding
you deposition transcripts and other information, perhaps you might want to
check with them as to whether they have withdrawn that motion or decided not to
pursue it?

As you know, the order granting Fox reimbursement of its costs and fees
related only to the appeal has itself been appealed and a decision is pending.

Bottom line: with the pending-but-challenged order for fees and costs
related to the appeal, PLUS the still-pending motion for an order granting fees and
costs for the entire trial, it is no exaggeration to say, as we did on the
website:

<<...Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has issued a ruling which
could ultimately lead to an order that we are liable for Fox’s court costs and
legal fees which could amount to maybe $3 million, all told.>>

And we say "could ultimately lead" because Fox attorneys, if they ultimately
win the appeal of the DCA order, will no doubt use that as a strong part of
their argument before the trial judge that they should similarly be entitled to
trial costs and fees.

Now with regard to your references that I once hid money under my mattress:
It's been a long time but as I recall, this was an off-handed remark made in
a deposition when your friend Pat Anderson insisted I remember what I did with
some sum of money I had long since forgotten. Out of exasperation, I
suggested maybe I stuffed it under my mattress.  Words on a transcript page may be
interpreted by you now to suggest something that no one in the room at the
time would have concluded was a serious response.

And in response to your inquiries regarding tax returns and other personal
financial matters:  As a matter of privacy, I don't discuss family personal
and financial matters publicly.

Let me also suggest to you--and by copy of this response to your publisher
and editor, too--that publishing further information and speculation about
private matters wholly unrelated to our public conduct in a further attempt to lead
your readers to false conclusions about our integrity based on nothing more than
innuendo, will be taken as additional proof of actual malice on your part.

We have always recognized our obligation to be accountable, as demonstrated
by our prompt, detailed and repeated responses to you and our decision to
register
with the state and file regular reports even though you now agree we are not
required to do so.  Your crusade has gone far beyond responsible journalism
and even fair comment and criticism and extends now well into the category of
malicious abuse.  Jane and I are at our limit with your misconduct in this
regard.

p.s.  We're still awaiting your disclosure of the source of the innaccurate
real estate information you published.