Thursday, December 4, 1997

Paper Trails: Obstruction of justice -- but whose?

The California producer of The Clinton Chronicles is in Arkansas this week preparing his legal defense in connection with another video about the state.
       Pat Matrisciana hired attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. to defend him in a lawsuit filed by Lt. Jay Campbell and Sgt. Kirk Lane of the Pulaski County sheriff's office.
       Matrisciana briefly mentions the two in a video called Obstruction of Justice: The Mena Connection.
       "Eyewitnesses have implicated these two officers in the cover-up of the boys' deaths," the video says of the deaths of Kevin Ives and Don Henry, whose bodies were found Aug. 23, 1987, on railroad tracks near Alexander.
       "The comment in the video came from Arkansas State Police files obtained under the Freedom of Information [Act]," Hall says. "It is a conclusion drawn from those files. So the question is: Is there a good-faith basis for making the connection?"
       Darren O'Quinn doesn't think so. He's one of the attorneys for the officers and says he has looked at the same documents the filmmakers did to draw their conclusion.
       "Those documents don't have anything to do with the boys' deaths," O'Quinn says. "Unless they have more than what they produced, it looks to me to be a reckless statement."
       The men are asking for $16 million in damages.
       "They're crazy to be suing us," Matrisciana says. "When I got the lawsuit, we all sat around and started laughing."
       Of the more than 200 films he has made, Matrisciana says, "This is the greatest one for us to be sued on. We prepare every film as if we're going to be sued. This film, we took extra precautions."
       Not enough, O'Quinn says. The lawsuit says any research the filmmakers did "was so slipshod and slovenly that it demonstrates a maliciousness, reckless disregard and carelessness regarding the truth or falsity of the facts published and an utter disregard of plaintiffs' rights and the consequences of such a publication." "They've really been hurt by it," O'Quinn says. "If you look at the videotape, it's real professionally done." O'Quinn says people who don't know the officers might be swayed by the video.
       "Things like this just need to be cleaned up right now," he says.

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