It was billed as a lawsuit all about May 2005 radio broadcasts that embarrassed a Cape Coral woman and invaded her privacy, but a last-minute ruling ended in tapes of former 96 K-Rock shock jock Joe Scott being barred from the trial.
Jurors had been warned they’d hear broadcasts riddled with curses and threats against Scott’s former girlfriend, but Naples-based Beasley Broadcast Group Inc.’s lawyer, Kelley Geraghty Price, successfully argued on Tuesday that they weren’t authenticated and were not admissible.
The ruling by Lee Circuit Judge Christine Greider severely hampers a lawsuit that Price had whittled down during pretrial motions to two counts, invasion of privacy and negligent hiring and retention. It came as Price and the lawyer for Patti Davis presented opening statements, detailing the case for jurors 4½ years after 46-year-old Scott collapsed and died in his Cape Coral home following years of drug and alcohol abuse.
“Mr. Scott accused this woman of everything you could think of, every day, every morning ... for the entire month,” Davis’ lawyer, William Thompson Jr., told jurors. “Joe Scott was angry because Patti Davis encouraged his doctors to keep him in The Willough (rehab center).”
Davis sued Beasley and its affiliates in 2005, alleging Scott called her a prostitute, thief, and names that harmed her reputation and real-estate career. She alleged the station refused to stop his daily diatribes after she repeatedly complained that he was still abusing drugs and not ready to return to the air.
She alleged that after nationally known shock jock Howard Stern’s show ended in March 2005, K-Rock needed a profit-making substitute and yanked Scott — a drug addict and alcoholic — out of rehab, allowing him on air while still abusing, and violating station policies against disclosing details about people’s personal lives.
Thompson maintained K-Rock capitalized on Scott’s drug addiction, mental problems and domestic violence history with Davis.
“They were essentially telling their listeners that if they tuned in ... they would hear a mentally unstable person ranting,” he said as Davis sat at the plaintiff’s table, the daughter she had with Scott sitting several feet behind her in the courtroom.
Thompson called the broadcasts a “100-watt hammer” Scott used to attack from Tampa to Miami.
In her opening statement, Price said Davis openly engaged in discussions about her personal life with Scott on the air many times before, and the broadcasts she’s complaining about are voice-overs of those earlier shows.
She mocked Davis’ injuries, saying she never sought psychiatric help, suffered “only a cold sore” and “may have been” prescribed anti-depressants, but only because she’d needed them before. Price also repeatedly scoffed at the “100-watt weapon” characterization.
Not only did Davis display her life on air before, Price said, it was her domestic violence restraining order application for herself and their daughter that made her life public, including personal emails, texts, and a transcript of a broadcast.
“Everything, virtually, that he talked about on the air is something she had talked about herself on air or included in her filings,” Price said.
Price contended Davis, who had met Scott at a radio station in the 1980s, liked the attention she received on his shows, and maintained neither Davis nor her career were harmed.
“There isn’t one scintilla of evidence you will hear that Joe Scott was relapsing in May 2005,” Price said, adding Scott was forced to undergo urine tests after being brought back in May 2005 and didn’t relapse until February 2006, a month before he was fired after being suspended for not showing up for work for three days.
“This case is about personal responsibility. You yourself need to be responsible for your own acts,” Price told jurors. “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, so don’t reward her for throwing a stone.”
Thompson’s first witness, John Vincent Rozzi, the former program director of WRXK (96 K-Rock), WJBX (99X) and now director at WARO, 94.5 The Arrow, told jurors they were reluctant to take Scott back in 2003. But he and the station’s owners ensured he was healthy and “working on all cylinders.”
Thompson again attempted to use Rozzi to authenticate the tapes, but Price successfully objected.
During cross-examination, Rozzi said they’d tried to make sure Scott remained drug-free through continued treatment with his doctor and random drug tests.
Price’s first witness, Bruce Beasley, a station executive, was called out of order due to his busy schedule. He admitted he was concerned about bringing Scott back in 2003 and 2005 after rehab, but monitored him and placed conditions in his contract.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” Beasley said, noting that they’d been told he’d been sober about five years in 2003.
Thompson will continue cross-examination Wednesday, when he’s expected to try again to use Beasley to authenticate the taped broadcasts.