The Needles

The Needles
Checking In With Jack

Andy Chalk | 21 Apr 2009 17:00
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Jack Thompson is back in the news and as it's been a while since we last checked in with everybody's favorite disbarred and disgraced former attorney, I thought this might be an opportune time to do some catching up.

2009 has been a busy year for Jack. Say what you will about the man, but there's no denying his dedication to his cause: When it comes to crusading against videogames, he's a dog with a bone. Earlier in the year, his efforts to neuter ESRB game ratings enforcement in Utah via an amendment to the state's Truth in Advertising Act drew considerable attention; essentially, Thompson wanted to open videogame retailers in Utah to lawsuits if they sold an M-rated game to a minor, even mistakenly, if they advertised that they would not do so.

The bill was enthusiastically supported by both the Utah Senate and House of Representatives, two political bodies that obviously believe very strongly in thinking of the children, before coming to Governor Jon Huntsman for final approval. To the surprise of virtually everyone, he vetoed the thing, expressing reservations over both the Constitutionality of the bill and the chilling effect it would have on retailer enforcement of existing videogame ratings. It was a stunning application of reason and common sense from a politician and normally would've been the end of matters. But Thompson was unwilling to simply walk away.

If his reaction to the veto of the Utah bill was predictable, its intensity was not. After failing to work up an appetite among legislators to have the veto overturned, he demanded that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff prosecute retailers who sold "pornographic" (ie., violent) videogames to minors and threatened to proceed with "legal action" against him if he declined to do so. Thompson and Shurtleff have a history: In 2007, he attempted to have the Utah Attorney General impeached for suggesting that a Thompson-authored bill from 2006 was unconstitutional and that bad blood was apparent in the header of a copy of that email he sent to GamePolitics in which he referred to Shurtleff as "dead meat." Shurtleff blew off the threat (and Thompson's legal acumen) while Representative Mike Morley, who had sponsored Thompson's bill in the first place, said he knew nothing about it.

Never one to take "no" for an answer, Thompson turned up the rhetoric and began to spread it around. In follow-up emails sent to Shurtleff and others including Utah State Senate President Michael Waddoups and Gayle Ruzicka, president of the hard-right Utah Eagle Forum and one of Thompson's most steadfast allies, he called the Utah A.G. "corrupt" and "cowardly," said he was "on the take" and claimed he was abusing the Attorney General's office to "facilitate the distribution of pornography... to kids throughout Utah." Always willing to antagonize allies as well as opponents, he then took Ruzicka to task for being "unwilling to see what is devouring" her children and grandchildren, calling it predictable and sad.

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