Tuesday, August 3, 1999

Jurors see full video at filmmaker's trial


An unsolved mystery from 1987 that spawned years of investigations and conspiracy theories was thrust upon a federal court jury on Monday as the producer of a film about the subject was accused of defamation.
    Patrick Matrisciana of California is on trial for allegations aired in his 1996 documentary Obstruction of Justice: The Mena Connection, which focuses on the Aug. 23, 1987, deaths of two boys whose bodies were found beside railroad tracks in Saline County.
    The hour-long video, shown to jurors in its entirety, contains allegations that the deaths of Kevin Ives, 17, and Don Henry, 16, were murders that various public officials tried to cover up, from local law enforcement officers to state and federal prosecutors to the governor's office -- then occupied by Bill Clinton.
    Among the officials named in the video are Jay Campbell and Kirk Lane, both now lieutenants for the Pulaski County sheriff’s office. They filed suit in April 1997, saying their reputations were destroyed when the film asserted that they were “implicated” in the murders and ensuing cover-up by unnamed “eyewitnesses.”
    The men’s attorney, Darren O’Quinn, told jurors that he will ask them to return “a substantial verdict” against Matrisciana that will send a message that “we are not going to let people get by with making statements that damage people forever.”
    Matrisciana is being sued personally and under the names he uses to do business: Citizens for an Honest Government Inc., Integrity Films and Jeremiah Films Inc.
    O’Quinn contended in his opening statement that the film, which was produced in a “very professional, very believable” manner, “purports to be a documentary but is nothing but a tabloid-type production” designed to make money during Clinton’s presidential re- election bid.
    “It makes allegations of him being involved in a drug conspiracy reaching up to the highest powers of the world,” O’Quinn said of Clinton.
    Although the trial isn’t about the boys’ deaths, O’Quinn told jurors that “there have been seven independent local, state and federal investigations on these deaths from the FBI to the U.S. attorney to the Arkansas State Police, and no one has conclusively said that it was a murder.”
    The video has sold 300,000 copies at a price ranging from $4 to $19.95 each, he said.
    Matrisciana, who also produced a video called The Clinton Chronicles, said from the witness stand that he relied heavily on the diligent research and knowledge of Ives’ mother, Linda Ives, and a for- mer Saline County prosecutor, Jean Duffey.
    “They were also very active in writing the script,” he said of the two women, whom he said he believes to be credible.
    He said he felt he had to tell their story because he didn’t think the “mainstream media” had done an adequate job of revealing the truth in covering the story.
    As proof that some of the public corruption allegations in the film are correct, Matrisciana cited the convictions of former Saline County Prosecutor Dan Harmon on federal racketeering, conspiracy and drug charges.
    Matrisciana’s attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr., told jurors that the plaintiffs must show that the film was produced with a reckless disregard for the truth.
    To support Matrisciana’s belief that he was reporting the truth, Hall reminded jurors about the outcry that arose after former State Medical Examiner Dr. Fahmy Malak made an initial determination that the boys were killed while sleeping on the tracks in a marijuana-induced stupor. That outcry led to a reopening of the case, through which a Georgia pathologist examined the exhumed bodies and found both boys were killed before being placed on the tracks -- Henry by being stabbed in the back and Ives by being hit in the face with a rifle butt.
    Hall told jurors that Duffey’s fight to find the boys’ killers while working in an atmosphere of corruption eventually forced her from her position as chief of the county’s drug task force. She now teaches school in Pasadena, Texas.
    The film surmises that the boys were killed because while walking along the tracks, they saw a plane fly low and drop a load of drugs that someone was there to retrieve.
    The trial is scheduled to last all week before U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln, Neb.

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