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Jury Acquits Hampton on One Count, Deadlocks on Another

October 1, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ The con man whose scams inspired the hit play ″Six Degrees of Separation″ was acquitted Thursday of one count of harassing playwright John Guare over a share of the profits.

The state court jury deadlocked on one other count of aggravated harassment.

Prosecutors said they would seek to retry David Hampton, but Hampton’s lawyer called the verdict a victory.

″David is relieved and elated,″ said lawyer Ron Kuby. ″Little David has slain the Broadway Goliath.″

Hampton, 28, was charged with two counts of aggravated harassment. Prosecutors alleged he threatened Guare’s life when Guare refused to give him proceeds from his play based on one of Hampton’s illegal charades.

The play, nominated for a 1991 Tony Award, recreates a scam in which Hampton pretended to be actor Sidney Poitier’s son and gained access to the homes of numerous prominent New Yorkers who gave him shelter, clothes and money. Hampton served 21 months in prison for the scam.

One of the charges was based on a call Hampton made March 27 to Guare’s answering machine, which said in part, ″I would strongly advise you that you give me some money or you can start counting your days.″

″That’s a threat,″ Assistant District Attorney Valerie Avrin argued in summation. ″There isn’t any doubt about it.″

But Kuby had argued in closing Wednesday that Hampton wasn’t serious when he made his threat. He said Hampton thought he was owed something because Guare had made use of the creative way that his client ″tweaked the noses of some phony liberals.″

″Hampton’s intent then was to get some recompense for what Guare had taken from him,″ Kuby said. ″He was trying to get something back. Isn’t that a natural thing to do?″

Avrin argued that Guare’s play had nothing to do with the criminal charges against Hampton. She reminded them that Hampton had sued Guare in civil court to get money from the play, and lost.

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