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Closing Arguments In Newton’s Lawsuit Against NBC

December 9, 1986

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ An attorney for Wayne Newton urged a jury to award the singer substantial damages because NBC ″assassinated″ his reputation, but a network lawyer said ″Wayne Newton destroyed Wayne Newton.″

Newton’s attorney, Morton Galane, said that NBC reporter Brian Ross and producer Ira Silverman were out to get Newton and suggested it was in an effort to ingratiate themselves with Johnny Carson with a series of reports in 1980 linking Newton to mobsters.

″For three minutes, in 216 markets throughout the United States, they assassinated his reputation, they totally destroyed it,″ Galane told U.S. District Court jurors in his closing argument on Monday.

But NBC attorney Floyd Abrams said Newton caused his own problems by seeking help from two organized crime figures.

″It is Mr. Newton’s view that everything that happened to him was NBC’s fault,″ said Abrams. ″As you know, it was Mr. Newton who went to these two mob leaders for help. And he says he bears no responsibility for any of this.″

The closing arguments are scheduled to continue today and could run into Wednesday.

Galane noted that Ross and Silverman met with Carson the day after Newton appeared before Nevada gaming regulators to obtain licensing to purchase the Aladdin Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Carson had earlier sought to purchase the hotel.

″I am not faulting ambition,″ Galane said of Ross and Silverman’s meeting with Carson. ″I am faulting blind ambition.″

″They (Ross and Silverman) knew they were going to meet Carson the day after the Gaming Control Board hearing,‴ Galane told the jury. ″What did they hope to achieve?″

″These were serious men who knew what they were formulating for the destruction of Wayne Newton,″ Galane said of Ross and Silverman.

″We didn’t destroy Wayne Newton in this trial,″ Abrams responded. ″Wayne Newton destroyed Wayne Newton. What he said destroyed Wayne Newton.″

Abrams called the Carson theory ″nonsense.″

″It’s madness to suggest that these two journalists who have won numerous awards for coverage of organized crime would get it in their heads to curry favor with Johnny Carson and lie on national TV,″ Abrams told the jury.

One of the NBC broadcasts said federal investigators were questioning whether crime figures Guide Penosi and Frank Piccolo had a hidden interest in Newton’s purchase of the Aladdin. Newton has described Penosi as a longtime fan he turned to in early 1980 to get death threats against his family halted. Piccolo, an East Coast mob boss who was killed in 1982, was Penosi’s cousin.

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