NBC Attorney Says Wayne Newton Caused Own Problems
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ Entertainer Wayne Newton invited an NBC-TV news story about his mob links by asking a reputed Gambino crime family member for help in stopping death threats against his daughter, a network attorney says.
In opening arguments in Newton’s 5 1/2 -year-old defamation lawsuit against NBC, attorney Floyd Abrams said an Oct. 6, 1980, broadcast on Newton’s alleged ties with Guido Penosi simply reflected his relationship with the reputed mobster.
″You will hear Wayne Newton made a critical and dangerous move, a move NBC had nothing to do with,″ Abrams told the jury Wednesday. ″Instead of calling the FBI, he called Guido Penosi. He called the mob.″
Newton was to be the first witness today in the U.S. District Court trial. Other prospective witnesses in the suit include Johnny Carson, NBC newsmen John Chancellor and Tom Brokaw, entertainer Lola Falana and Frank Fahrenkopf, Republican National Committee chairman.
Newton’s attorney, Morton Galane called the NBC broadcast a ″gross distortion″ and said the broadcast severely cut into Newton’s income, which reached $12 million a year in the late 1970s.
″This case is about a man who at one time had a good name,″ Galane said. ″It is also about a television news broadcast and what this broadcast did to the good name of the man.″
Abrams argued that NBC never said Newton was a member of the mob, only that he had a relationship with Penosi, a relationship he claimed Newton concealed when he went before Nevada gaming authorities two weeks before the broadcast in an effort to get licensed to buy the Aladdin Hotel and Casino.
″The broadcast was about the fact that Mr. Newton didn’t tell the whole truth before Nevada gaming authorities,″ Abrams said.
Galane said a 20-year relationship between Newton and Penosi started when the singer played nightclubs in Miami. He said the relationship was that of a star and a fan, although Newton and Penosi met socially and Penosi once gave Newton’s daughter a saddle for her horse.
Galane said his client had called Penosi for help after threats were made on the life of Newton’s daughter, Erin. Newton has said the threats ceased after he sought Penosi’s help.
Visiting Judge Myron Crocker of Fresno, Calif., said the trial could take two to four months.
Newton moved from Phoenix to Las Vegas in 1957 to launch a singing career in a lounge at the Fremont Hotel in downtown’s Glitter Gulch.
He announced in 1980 that he was purchasing the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, leading to a bitter feud with Carson, who also was reportedly seeking to buy the property.
Newton sold his interest in the Aladdin in 1982, citing differences in business philosophy with his partner, Ed Torres, who had signed him at the Fremont 25 years earlier.