Another Geller lawsuit: Geller v. Stenger

(no name) ((no email))
20 Sep 1993 11:44:35 -1000 (HST)

This is a report on the lawsuits by Uri Geller against me.

Suits were filed in London in February, 1992, in Miami in April in 1992,
and in Honolulu, in November 1992. All three suits are narrowly focused on
the following sentence from p. 188 of my book "Physics and Psychics: The
Search for a World Beyond the Senses" published by Prometheus Books in March,
1990:

"He began his career as a stage magician in Israel where he was once
arrested for claiming his feats were performed with psychic power"

Geller raises no objection to my descriptions of the various "scientific"
tests of his powers, which were highly skeptical.

The incident in question happened in Beersheba in 1971. While writing my
book, I had read Randi's "Magic of Uri Geller," Paul Kurtz's "Transcendental
Temptation," and C.E.M. Hansel's "ESP and Parapsychology." The first two
referred to the incident with the identical phrase about Geller being "brought
to court." Hansel refers to Geller being found "guilty of breach of
contract."

The suit in London included Prometheus and their local distributors as co-
defendants. The Miami suit included Prometheus and Paul Kurtz as co-
defendants. The Hawaii suit is against me alone.

After the suits were filed, the publisher made inquiries in Israel which
indicated that the incident appeared to have been a civil rather than criminal
case. With my agreement, they inserted an erratum in the unsold copies and
corrected the above sentence in a new printing to read:

"He began his career as a stage magician in Israel where he was once
successfully sued for claiming his feats were performed with psychic power"

My position is that I made an unintended factual error in misinterpreting
the words "brought to court" and "guilty" as "arrested," and that this was
done without malice or reckless disregard for the truth. Note that the error
was mine alone, and not that of Randi, Kurtz, or Hansel. Further, my
publisher and I are interested in the truth and would have made the above
change if the error had been pointed out to us by a simple letter, without the
need for costly lawsuits.

Fortunately the faculty of the University of Hawaii is unionized and as a
member of the union I am also a member of the National Education Association
which provides free Educators Employment Liability Insurance to its members.
The insurance company, Horace Mann, has agreed to provide my legal expenses in
this case, taking the word of my department chair, dean, the University of
Hawaii Vice president for Academic Affairs that writing a book of this nature
was in keeping with the Board of Regents expectations for the activities of
faculty members.

The current status is as follows:

Miami. Geller asked for a voluntary dismissal with prejudice against Paul
Kurtz and without prejudice against me. The judge agreed, however ruled that
Geller must pay my attorneys' fees from the point in March, 1993, when he had
documentary evidence that the book was sold in Florida in March, 1990, and
thus the suit, filed in April, 1992, was barred by the Statute of Limitations.
Geller's attorneys had vigorously pursued the suit after they were aware that
the suit was time-barred. The amount has not been set, but should be at least
$15,000.

Hawaii. My attorneys will shortly move for dismissal on grounds of the
Statute of Limitations and the First Amendment right of free speech. Here
Geller, as a public figure, has the burden of proof of proving malice and
reckless disregard for the truth.

London: Unfortunately, England does not have a First Amendment and it is
possible, though not yet so ruled, that the word "arrested" is capable of
being defamatory. The fact that Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Jesus Christ
were all once arrested does not automatically deny the possibility of a legal
interpretation that Geller was harmed by my saying he was arrested, though I
claim that he was not and expect a court would so rule. Note that I did not
mention, in the original wording, that he did have a ruling against him in the
case. He could have been innocent, for all my readers knew.

Since Geller lives in London, my attorney there is attempting to
negotiate a global settlement. Geller has offered a global settlement where
we pay his London costs and he pays none of the judgments against him in the
U.S., including the $150,000 that he must pay CSICOP in the D.C. case. Of
course, that has nothing to do with me and my attorneys cannot negotiate
anything concerning that case. We have rejected his offer, and made a counter
that I should probably not reveal at this time.

Stay tuned.

Vic Stenger
Professor of Physics, University of Hawaii at Manoa