THIS MAN’S QUEST FOR HEAVEN MAY PROVE TO BE HELL ON EARTH
Miami Herald, The (FL) – March 25, 1990
Author/Byline: FRED TASKER Herald Staff Writer
The World According to Jack Thompson:
* Shock rapper Luke Skyywalker, as things stand, will burn in hell; Thompson is willing to help him try to avoid it.
* Raunchy radio host Neil Rogers is “a sociopath, a Hitler without an army, a self-hating Jew, a self-hating homosexual.” (Thompson said that before a circuit judge banned him from talking about Rogers.)
* Dade State Attorney Janet Reno may or may not be a lesbian, but rumors that she’s a pervert make it impossible for her to prosecute Skyywalker’s perversion.
* The 16-year-old boy Thompson enlisted for a sting operation to prove record stores were selling obscene materials to minors, was forced to drop out of the case as a witness in order to frustrate Thompson’s bust.
* The Florida Bar, now investigating three formal ethics grievances against Thompson, is a secretive cabal stacked with people who hold grudges or conflicts of interest.
* His opponents’ repeated demands that he be required to take psychological exams are meant to “pathologize my religion,” because “the best way to get rid of me is to have me labeled as some kind of lunatic.”
What is it with John B. Thompson? Why did the 39-year-old Coral Gables lawyer leave a big-name law firm and drop much of a lucrative practice to spend most of his time scorching sinners?
Almost single-handedly he has gone after As Nasty as They Wanna Be, the album by Skyywalker’s Liberty City shock-rap group 2 Live Crew: Dozens of Florida record shops yanked it — with its controversial single Me So Horny — off the shelves. Almost single-handedly he has gone after radio vulgarian Rogers: Last year the FCC levied a first-ever $10,000 fine against Rogers’ station, WIOD.
What makes Jack run? Two things, he says:
First, his born-again experience in 1977.
“I am no better than the worst pornographer . . . on the face of the earth. The only difference . . . is that God has been gracious enough to offer me salvation. I was convicted of — evangelicals use that term — my own sin and the need for forgiveness for that sin and to dedicate myself to try to live by the precepts that are set forth by the Scripture.”
Second, his free representation of Iliana Fuster in her 1986 divorce from Frank Fuster, who was convicted in 1985 in the Country Walk child molestation case. That case showed Thompson “the causal nexus between pornography and sexual abuse,” he says. “Luther Campbell, a.k.a. Luke Skyywalker, is mentally molesting children just as surely as Frank Fuster did in the physical sense, and laughing about it and making millions of dollars doing it.”
But if Thompson reaches heaven this way, he will have gone through hell to get there.
THE FEUD WITH 2 LIVE CREW
As Nasty as They Wanna Be is nasty, all right. Its now- famous song, Me So Horny, features such lyrics as: “You can say I’m desperate, even call me perverted / But you say I’m a dog when I leave you f—ed and deserted.”
Thompson is horrified.
“A society that allows . . . this material is a society that doesn’t take seriously the brutalization, rape and even murder of women.”
Thompson fears for the soul of Crew mastermind Luther Campbell, who sings and produces records under the name of Luke Skyywalker.
“You bet,” Thompson says. “I’ve requested the opportunity through an intermediary to sit down with Luther and share with him the claims of Christ so that together we might try and help rather than hurt the children.”
Replies Skyywalker: “He couldn’t save my soul if he tried. My soul is already as saved as it’s gonna be.”
THE FEUD WITH NEIL ROGERS
Thompson’s feud with Rogers began in 1987, when Rogers was with WINZ, then exploded in 1988 after Rogers went to WIOD. Thompson didn’t like the songs Rogers played — such songs as Boys Want Sex in the Morning, The A–hole Song, The Butch Beer Commercial.
Rogers also would lampoon the elderly in Hallandale, accusing them of stealing Sweet ‘n’ Low, advocating using them instead of animals in medical experiments.
That’s when Thompson called Rogers a Hitler and demanded that Reno prosecute him.
Said Rogers: “It obviously is satire. You’d have to be a moron to interpret it any other way.” He called Thompson a “born-again fanatic who has taken it upon himself to dictate morality for this community.”
At about the same time, WIOD’s FCC license was up for renewal. Thompson petitioned. And in an unexpected finding, the FCC fined WIOD $10,000 for broadcasting some of Rogers’ songs.
THE FEUD WITH RENO, PART 1
Thompson, who couldn’t get Reno to prosecute Rogers, decided to run against her for state attorney in 1988. On Sept. 8, the two were to appear together at a campaign rally at North Beach Elementary School. As they waited to go on, Thompson handed Reno a letter giving her four days to check off a box in the statement: “I, Janet Reno, am a: * homosexual, * bisexual, * heterosexual.” The letter went on: “If you do not respond . . . by that date then you will be deemed to have checked one of the first two boxes.”
After reading the letter, Reno says, she put a gentle hand on Thompson’s shoulder. Thompson says she was rough — “like an enraged schoolmarm; both hands.” They agree she told him she was interested only in virile men. He remembers that she added, “That’s why she’s not attracted to me.” Reno says she doesn’t recall that.
Thompson filed a battery charge against Reno with Miami Beach police.
Reno couldn’t investigate herself, so Gov. Bob Martinez appointed Marshall King Hall, deputy to West Coast area State Attorney Joseph D’Alessandro, to do it. Hall’s report: “No criminal battery took place, and Mr. Thompson did this as a political ploy.”
At the same time, Reno asked that a neutral, outside investigator be appointed to investigate Thompson’s myriad of charges against Rogers.
Hall got that assignment, too. His conclusion: “No criminal violations . . . Mr. Thompson appears to have an obsessional hatred of Mr. Neil Rogers and his radio show.”
THE FEUD WITH RENO, PART 2
On Jan. 1 of this year, Thompson wrote to Reno demanding that she prosecute Luke Skyywalker for obscenity. She didn’t. On Jan. 8, he wrote to Pete Dunbar, general counsel to Martinez, demanding that the governor appoint a special prosecutor. Thompson contended that Reno wasn’t prosecuting for two reasons:
First, he alleged a conflict of interest. Skyywalker last year produced a rap song, titled Janet Reno, by a group called Anquette that praises Reno’s efforts to collect child support from deadbeat fathers. To quote the song: “She chased you down to 15th Avenue, you tried to hide your trail. She found your a — and locked you up and now who can’t post no bail?”
To quote Reno: “Some people think (the song) criticizes me. I don’t understand the lyrics. In any case, they have no influence on me.”
Thompson’s second reason: “The rumors are that Janet Reno is a closeted lesbian.”
“If Janet Reno is a pervert, Governor,” he wrote to Martinez, “then why would anyone expect her to prosecute pornographers peddling perversion to children?”
Replies Reno: “The only rumors I’ve heard are ones he’s circulated. To address it specifically, I am not a lesbian. I am attracted to strong, brave, rational and intelligent men.”
Thompson, in a flurry of letters to The Herald since January, wrote this on March 15 to support his point:
“Attorney Louis St. Laurent told me of Janet Reno’s meeting with Iliana Fuster, if you can imagine this, and the belief he and certain of the parents tragically scarred by the Country Walk disaster had that Reno was interested in a sexual liaison with Iliana (who had pleaded guilty to sexual battery and lewd assault in the child abuse case). St. Laurent claims Reno is a lesbian.”
Replies St. Laurent, a leader of Country Walk parents during the Fuster case: “That’s a first-class lie. I never made that statement.” He says he spoke briefly with Thompson, then refused to return his calls, “because I didn’t think he was all there.”
Thompson says St. Laurent has turned against him because he represented Iliana Fuster.
“Louis can’t handle that, since he thinks that makes me the aider and abetter of child molestation. And this guy thinks I’m not wrapped too tight.”
TO BE BORN AGAIN
Thompson, born July 25, 1951, grew up around Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. He attended Baptist, Methodist and Congregational churches, but he was “turned off by all the stuff that had been superimposed upon the Christian faith (that) obscured for me what the real Christian faith was.”
Still, his fight against evil began early. In high school, in the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls, his fellow students elected him student mayor for the day. He surprised a city council meeting by proposing a resolution asking adults in the community — particularly real estate agents — to end segregation.
“My life was repeatedly threatened subsequent to that.”
After graduating in 1973 from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, he went to law school at Vanderbilt, where he met his wife-to-be, Patricia, also now a lawyer. They moved to Miami, where he worked as the assistant golf pro at the Ocean Reef resort while studying for the Florida Bar exam.
In 1976 he joined the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church and met Pastor Steve Brown.
“I went in and chatted with him and he suggested I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.”
Thompson became a born-again Christian.
The full belief in Jesus as Savior is crucial, Thompson says. Does he believe that Jews, Moslems and others who do not hold that belief are condemned to hell?
“Yes. That’s what the Scriptures teach.”
Thompson quickly moved into prestigious legal jobs. He was in-house counsel for The Babcock Co., a real estate development firm.
“He was very conservative, heavily involved in church life,” says former Babcock president and one-time Dade County manager Ray Goode. “I couldn’t have predicted he would go as far as he has on those issues and subject himself to the personal harassment I’m sure he’s endured.”
In 1982, Thompson became a junior partner in Blackwell Walker; among his clients was South Miami Hospital. He left that job over “a difference in philosophy,” says the firm’s Willis Flick. “I was the boss,” Flick says. “He decided he wanted to tell me off. We parted friends.”
Thompson says he told Flick the older lawyers in the firm weren’t giving proper consideration to younger lawyers.
“He fired me shortly thereafter. I don’t hold any grudges. I have the highest respect for Willis Flick.”
For a year in the mid-1980s, Thompson worked as a fund- raiser for Logoi (Greek for “The Word”), a Miami-based ministry that trains pastors for service in Latin America. His salary was only $20,000.
“We terminated him,” says Logoi president Les Thompson. “The problem with Jack is a personality problem. He’s extremely opinionated and inflexible. He may be 100 percent in the right, but the way he approaches it makes him wrong.”
Today Thompson practices law alone, working out of his Coral Gables home, a two-bedroom, two-bath house built in 1926, which he and his wife, Patricia, bought in 1980 for $125,000.
Thompson speaks little of his personal life. His wife declined to be interviewed. People who know him socially find him pleasant.
“He’s absolutely a delight; he has a keen sense of humor,” says Bill Quesenberry, a neighbor and occasional golf partner at the Key Biscayne, Biltmore and Riviera courses. He says Thompson’s wife has held up well under the strain of Thompson’s crusade. “As far as I know, she’s very supportive.”
Thompson won’t say how much of his time he spends on his crusade against Rogers and dirty music, although he points out that some of it is spent defending himself, not attacking others. He won’t say how much of a financial sacrifice it has been.
“I never had to serve in the armed forces, so I have chosen to look at the past 2 1/2 years . . . as service to my community and country. Service is something people shouldn’t expect to be paid for.”
From 1987 through 1989, the Thompson-Rogers feud made its way in and out of state and federal courts. Thompson sued Rogers for harassment and invasion of privacy. Rogers sued Thompson for libel. WIOD sued Thompson for interfering with business.
Trial documents and interviews with principals tell what battles they were.
Thompson charged he was harassed by Rogers’ radio listeners — “the lunatic fringe,” Arthur Rice, Thompson’s attorney in one of the suits, calls them. In other suits, Thompson acted as his own attorney.
Rice says Rogers gave out Thompson’s telephone number over the air, and Thompson got a hail of harassing phone calls — screaming insults, ordering him pizzas, making appointments for him with urologists and proctologists, some even threatening him.
WIOD, for its part, charged that Thompson “threatened, harassed and intimidated” potential guests for Rogers’ show so that they would not appear.
It also charged that Thompson tried to persuade almost 100 WIOD advertisers to stop advertising. It said a dozen or more did stop, including such biggies as Southern Bell, Glendale Federal Savings and Loan, Burdines, WCIX-TV, WTVJ-TV and Metrozoo.
Says Rice, Thompson’s attorney: “He didn’t urge advertisers not to advertise. He contacted them with the (Rogers’) material.” Rice proudly shows one letter in which the Florida Citrus Department canceled its ads, telling WIOD: “I wasn’t aware you allow smut.” At one hearing, Rogers’ lawyer, Norman Kent, charged that Thompson had almost hit Rogers with his car. Thompson denied it. Then Miami psychologist David Rothenberg, who said he had not interviewed Thompson but had studied 300 to 400 letters Thompson wrote over the course of the lawsuits, testified that Thompson was a danger to Rogers.
“I felt I had a legal responsibility as well as a professional one to warn his attorney that I felt Mr. Rogers’ life was at risk. I believe (Thompson) is severely disturbed, and his capacity for control is diminishing.”
Thompson, acting as his own attorney, cross-examined Rothenberg:
Thompson: “Doctor, why don’t you put a name on what you think my dysfunction is?”
Rothenberg: “I’m not ready to do that . . . because I don’t have enough information to make a definite diagnosis, only to warn of a clear and present danger.”
Thompson: “So you don’t have enough information to make a definite diagnosis, but you have enough information to say I’m a threat to Neil Rogers’ safety?”
Rothenberg: “That’s correct.”
Thompson says he never threatened anyone with physical harm. John Longino, now representing Thompson in another matter, snorts: “You can get a psychologist to testify to anything you want.”
But Dade Circuit Judge Philip Bloom ordered Thompson to keep his distance from Rogers. Specifically, Thompson was barred from coming within 500 yards of the radio host.
Thompson then asked Circuit Judge Richard Feder to overturn Bloom’s order. He produced an affidavit from his own psychiatrist, Edward H. Georgia of Miami’s Highland Park Hospital, that pronounced Thompson completely sane.
Feder refused to vacate the injunction.
In November 1989, after 28 months of battle, the two sides called a truce. In a settlement signed by Circuit Judge Frederick Barad, Rogers agreed not to seek any further contact with Thompson.
Thompson agreed, among other things:
* Not to contact WIOD advertisers or talk show guests.
* Not to say anything about Rogers, good or bad, to anyone but his wife.
* Not to contact Rogers or any other station employee. Thompson and his wife were banned from coming closer than 500 yards from the WIOD studios. (His wife obtained specific permission to drive past the station on North Bay Causeway on her way elsewhere.)
* To provide an opinion by a psychiatrist that he was mentally competent to understand and carry out the agreement.
Thompson then submitted a letter from Georgia, the psychiatrist, that said Thompson was “completely sane and not in any way whatsoever impaired mentally or psychiatrically.
“The various allegations by WIOD-AM, Neil Rogers, a special prosecutor and others that he has or has had ‘an obsessional hatred of Mr. Neil Rogers and his radio show,’ that he is ‘mentally ill,’ that he is ‘possessed by demons’ . . . are completely without merit.”
Rogers’ attorney, Kent, calls the letter “unacceptable,” and says he may move against Thompson for failing to comply with the agreement.
Have Thompson’s efforts mellowed Rogers?
“Jack accomplished what he set out to do,” says Rice, Thompson’s attorney. “He exercised his right as a citizen to get WIOD to bring its programming content within the law.”
But as recently as Dec. 13, 1989, Thompson complained in a letter to the court that Rogers again used the word a—— on the air, and played a song, Freeway and Spigot, about anal intercourse between two homosexuals in a shower, including the sounds of orgasm.
Thompson cannot comment on the matter; the man who set out to stifle Rogers is legally banned from talking about him. Ironically, Rogers, who is not barred from talking about Thompson, now refuses to do so. BEFORE THE FLORIDA BAR
The Rogers affair has created trouble for Thompson in other ways. The Florida Bar is investigating three grievances against him that could, at least temporarily, cost him his right to practice law.
The first grievance, filed by WIOD, is based on the radio station’s 1989 lawsuit against Thompson, and charges that he was unethical in harassing its advertisers.
The second grievance, by Rogers, is based in part on a 1989 invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Thompson in Broward Circuit Court. In that case, Rogers’ lawyers said Thompson:
* Spied on Rogers’ house, wrote down auto-tag numbers of Rogers’ visitors and wrote to Tallahassee to learn the names of the drivers. “I think Jack drove by,” says Longino, his attorney in the bar probe, because Rogers joked on the air that he was taking home teen-age boys for sex.
* Harassed Rogers when he flew to Chicago to broadcast a Cubs baseball game. Rogers mentioned on the air that he had eaten at a restaurant called Eli’s. Thompson called the restaurant and asked for the names of hotels in the area. He figured out which one was Rogers’, then contacted the hotel’s security director and Chicago police and told them “the hotel was housing a pervert, child molester and pedophiliac.”
Thompson did that, Longino says, because Rogers announced on the air that he was taking a 16-year-old boy with him. Thompson says he can’t discuss the two complaints because of the legal agreement banning him from mentioning Rogers or WIOD.
* The third bar investigation concerns Thompson’s mental competence, says Longino.
“It’s a witch hunt.”
Longino says bar officials at one point told him the probe stemmed from an ethics complaint by Judge Feder, who presided over one of the Thompson-Rogers-WIOD lawsuits.
Bar counsel Patricia Etkin says rules prevent her from discussing the investigation.
Feder says he did write a letter to the bar complaining about Thompson’s conduct in representing himself in one of the lawsuits. He says he can’t detail his complaint because he might be a witness in the bar probe.
Longino says the bar intended to have a psychologist evaluate Thompson without ever meeting him, and dropped the idea only after Longino’s protests. After long wrangling, Longino says, he and the bar worked out a compromise in which Longino named 10 to 20 psychologists acceptable to him, and the bar picked one. The psychologist now is to choose a psychiatrist to participate in the evaluation.
The mental question was raised, in part, by two jokes played by Thompson, Longino says. In one, Thompson put a smiling-face pumpkin sticker on a deposition notice and faxed it to opposing counsel. In another, Thompson sent a document to the office of Rogers’ attorney, Kent, that included a photocopy of Thompson’s license. In place of Thompson’s photo was a photo of Batman.
Why? At the time, Longino says, Rogers was legally enjoined from saying Thompson’s name on the air, and so was referring to him as “The Sloop John B,” or sometimes “The Monitor.” Longino says Thompson picked up on the idea of being a citizen monitor and sent the Batman photo.
“If you’ve seen the movie,” Thompson adds, “Batman is a private citizen assisting law enforcement to do its job. It’s a metaphor that fits my situation with 2 Live Crew. It was meant in a spirit of fun. I’ve never thought I’m Batman.”
Adds Longino: “People react differently to stressful situations. I crack my knuckles. Jack reacts by making jokes.”
But seriously, Thompson says the Florida Bar is rife with conflicts of interest in investigating him. He alleges two members of its board of governors and two members of its Miami grievance committee have contributed to Reno’s campaigns, and one is a former member of Reno’s old law firm. He says one grievance committee member’s law partner once represented a client who lost to Thompson in a legal case. Thompson says the bar is taking testimony in his case without letting him be present, a violation of its own rules. He calls it “a Star Chamber proceeding; an outrageous abuse of due process.”
Etkin, the bar counsel, denies it.
Says Thompson: “Am I a paranoid who thinks people are out to get me? I don’t think so. I think my stance on certain issues has been inconvenient to certain people, and now there is a convenient opportunity to eliminate this pain in the neck who simply wants the law enforced.”
Meanwhile back at the raunch, when Thompson couldn’t get Reno to investigate 2 Live Crew in January, he decided to do his own sting operation. He enlisted the help of a 16-year-old Leisure City youth.
“He is in a Christian school. He personally was concerned about this album because his classmates were buying it and he was aware of the content of it and he thought it was wrong for them to be able to get it.” Thompson says the boy’s mother gave him permission to involve the boy. On Jan. 17, they went to two Coral Gables music stores — Coconuts, at 1240 S. Dixie Highway, and the Sound of Music, at 105 Miracle Mile. In both shops, he says, the boy was able to buy the stickered “dirty” version of As Nasty as They Wanna Be without showing identification.
Sound of Music owner David Ciciyasvili calls it “a simple mistake on the part of the clerk.” A spokesman for Coconuts’ corporate parent, Trans World Music, refused to comment.
Thompson and the boy took the albums to Coral Gables police and filled out offense incident reports. Thompson says the officer they talked to wanted to arrest the store clerks immediately, but was stopped by her superiors.
Thompson sent the reports to Reno. But by then, the boy had dropped out as a witness.
“His mother didn’t want him to be involved,” Thompson said. “There may have been pressure brought upon his mother.” His father refused to discuss the situation.
Says Gables Police Sgt. Bob Robkin: “We really had no victim. His parents said they didn’t give him permission. We conditionally investigated and gave it to the State Attorney’s Office. They decided there was not enough to warrant any prosecution.”
Says Reno: “We decided there was not sufficient evidence. People shouldn’t try to conduct investigations themselves. They should let police do it.”
Reno referred the situation to Metro-Dade Police.
Capt. Fred Dunphy, of special investigations, says his officers visited 11 record stores around the Dade County, got copies of Nasty and took them to Assistant State Attorney Trudy Novicki. He says they decided the lyrics clearly fit the legal definition of being harmful to minors. So he sent officers to warn 11 stores.
“Just about every store . . . pulled it. What we’re doing here is really a bit of prevention.”
EVERY SHERIFF IN FLORIDA
Also in January, Thompson wrote to the sheriffs of 65 Florida counties, sending copies of the Nasty lyrics and demanding prosecution.
And he wrote to Gov. Martinez, demanding that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. Martinez, expressing disgust at 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, appointed instead the statewide prosecutor, Peter Antonacci. Antonacci concluded that the investigation would better be done by local authorities. That, Thompson says, showed Antonacci’s “partisan agenda,” since he works for Florida’s “liberal” Democratic attorney general, Bob Butterworth, and thus was not about to help the state’s Republican governor.
But whether in reaction to Thompson or the governor, some local sheriffs acted.
Lee County Circuit Judge Isaac Anderson ruled Nasty obscene and ordered it removed from shelves. Broward Circuit Judge Mel Grossman called the lyrics “probably obscene,” and Sheriff Nick Navarro ordered his officers to warn stores that they risked prosecution if they sold it.
Many Broward shops pulled the album. And the 20 record shops of Hialeah-based Peaches chain also pulled the album, even in Dade, where no judge had ruled it obscene, said executive vice president Dave Jackowitz. He said Peaches removed not only the “dirty” version, but also the “clean” version.
That’s fine with Thompson. He says the “clean” version is probably too dirty for minors, too.
The past 2 1/2 years have been trying for Thompson.
“My heart is broken for what he’s gone through,” says one of his best friends, conservative WNWS talk show host Mike Thompson. “Jack has obviously paid a financial price. He has a very understanding wife. He’s not always the most diplomatic person. But it’s righteous indignation. His motives are pure. Even Christ showed anger at the money-changers in the temple.”
“He’s always been what he is,” says Ed Brandon, who has known Thompson for 10 years. “He gravitates toward controversy. But it’s totally in support of what he’s doing. He’s a good Christian.”
Thompson is serene.
“I have felt over the past three years God’s pleasure in my efforts on behalf of children.”
Says his pastor, Steve Brown:
“Jack’s an unusual person. That which would appear stupid in anyone else, in Jack is simply a complete inability to be less than totally candid.
“There’s a winsome innocence in him. Sometimes it gets him in trouble.
“I feel very protective of Jack. I just want to say, ‘Oh, Jack, don’t say those things.’
“It’s not a meanness, it’s a vulnerability.”
Caption: color photo: Jack THOMPSON; photo: Janet RENO, Neil ROGERS, Luther CAMPBELL, Mel GROSSMAN, Mike THOMPSON
Memo: JACK’S RAP: ME SO HORRIFIED
Index terms: BIOGRAPHY THOMPSONRecord: 9001210423Copyright: Copyright (c) 1990 The Miami Herald