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King Defendants Seek Pay-for-Talk TV Deal : Media: The four on trial will most likely speak after the verdicts on the tabloid news show 'A Current Affair'--for a price. Their attorneys defend the move.

April 15, 1993|DANIEL CERONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After the verdicts are reached in the Rodney G. King civil rights case, don't expect to see the four defendants making statements all over the place. The four men on trial have made themselves available to just one news outlet--for a price. They will most likely take their case to the tabloid news show "A Current Affair."

The idea to market the four was born in the mind of Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, one of the defendants. He recalled reading that Amy Fisher had received $40,000 for an exclusive interview with a TV tabloid show after she was convicted of assault for shooting her alleged lover's wife in the head.

Koon figured that he and the other three defendants--who haven't received their LAPD salaries for two years, and whose collective attorneys' fees and costs range near $1 million--could do at least as well as Fisher if they offered themselves as an exclusive packaged deal.

So last week Koon contacted Dan Beck, vice president of the Hannaford Co., a public relations firm whose clients include the California Trucking Assn. and former Gov. George Deukmejian. Last October Beck had helped Koon arrange interviews and talk shows for a book Koon wrote about his ordeal.

On the advice of Beck--and to the chagrin of the national news media--the once outspoken defendants have kept mum during this week's jury deliberations. At the same time, Beck has been working to secure a deal with a TV tabloid or talk show.

Beck formally represents Koon, Laurence M. Powell and Timothy E. Wind. Theodore J. Briseno has his own agent, but Briseno's attorney confirmed that his client hopes to be included in the deal.

And the attorneys are being overwhelmed by comments and questions from reporters suggesting that the four defendants are trying to turn a tragic event into personal gain.

The defendants declined to comment for this story. Their attorneys, who do not represent the police officers in their media endeavors, strongly disagree that their clients are doing any wrong by trying to capitalize on the King case.

"We keep getting these implications by journalists that there's something improper about what they're doing," said Harland W. Braun, Briseno's attorney. "(The defendants) try to make something off the very publicity that destroyed their lives, and everyone is going nuts. Up till now, the journalists have taken their interviews for free and then charged advertisers to make money off their broadcasts. It's so hypocritical it's unbelievable."

"They've been cast aside by their departments, they have not received a salary for two years, and the press has savaged them," said Ira Salzman, Koon's attorney. "The press coverage has been uniformly negative. As a result, they've got an obligation to their families. I support their decision wholeheartedly."

Last week, similar nationwide criticism mounted against members of the Spur Posse--current and former Lakewood High School students accused of raping or molesting young girls and keeping an account of their sexual conquests. Some of them were paid $1,000 each for appearances on "The Maury Povich Show" and "The Jane Whitney Show."

Beck said that the police officers are selling their first post-verdict interview--which will remain exclusive to the buyer for a period of time before the officers can give further interviews--for two reasons.

"One, they feel that they can get their story out, a story that has not been completely told, either through the media or by them as individuals," Beck said. "And two, they need some money to help recoup their losses."

Beck would not say how much his clients would receive for their exclusive interviews. He balked at the mention of a six-figure sum for the four of them, as rumors have suggested, calling that amount "stratospheric." But he did say the total would be more than the $40,000 reportedly paid to Amy Fisher.

There has also been talk of speaking engagements and TV movie deals in the wake of the verdict, although to this point Hollywood has been reluctant handle the case.

"I think there are Hollywood politics involved that don't want to cast these officers in any positive light," Beck said.

Nor have consumers appeared to be terribly interested. None of the major publishers bought Koon's book, "Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair." Published by the small Regnery Gateway in Washington, Koon's book has sold a less than impressive 25,000 copies in six months.

"To do something in the popular media, these guys have to overcome incredible prejudices," said Braun, whose client, Briseno, employed his agent six months ago to represent him to Hollywood. But Briseno was unable to strike up any deals with publishing houses or production companies.

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