A judge says he needs time to decide if the jury in singer Wayne Newton's new multimillion-dollar libel trial against NBC should consider just the settlement or the full question of the network's liability.
In December 1986, a Las Vegas jury awarded Newton $19.3 million, the largest libel defamation award in history, ruling that NBC News reports in 1980-81 linking Newton to organized crime figures contained information that network executives either doubted or knew was false.
NBC appealed the ruling, and U.S. District Court Judge Myron Crocker reduced the award to $5.3 million in punitive and compensatory damages. Unhappy with the lower amount, Newton requested and received a new trial.
At a preliminary hearing in the new trial this week in San Diego, where Crocker was visiting, NBC attorneys argued that Newton must "start with a clean slate" and convince the new jury that he was libeled before he can be awarded damages.
NBC attorney Floyd Abrams told the judge Newton made "a tactical decision to give up" the $5.3 million award and that decision should mean "they do not start a new trial with everything but the number intact."
Newton's attorneys argued that the jury should only consider the amount of the judgment and not the previously decided finding of liability.