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Jury Weighs Damages in Cobb Case

June 11, 1999

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A federal jury today began considering how much money in punitive damages should be awarded to ex-boxer Randall ``Tex″ Cobb in his libel suit against Sports Illustrated.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols said the jury can consider the financial resources of Time Inc., the magazine’s parent, in determining the figure.

Time Inc. publishes some 25 other magazines, including Time, People and Entertainment Weekly.

The jury Wednesday awarded Cobb $8.5 million in compensatory damages from Sports Illustrated.

Jurors now must decide how much more Cobb should be paid as punishment for a 1993 article that said the boxer fixed a fight and shared cocaine with the loser.

Cobb, 46, had asked for $50 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. He declined to comment Thursday, but previously said the article ended his boxing career and nearly ended his acting career.

In closing arguments today, Cobb’s attorney George Bochetto, urged jurors to send a message to Time Inc. that with power comes responsibility.

``Instead of the large powerful corporation telling us what its standards are and how they’ll behave, we have an opportunity to tell the corporation how to behave,″ he said.

Doug Maynard, a Sports Illustrated lawyer, said the jurors already had made an impact with the $8.5 million award. Reporters working for Time Inc. in the future will think about this verdict every time they write a story, he said.

``We’ve heard your message. It’s been delivered very forcefully. It’s an earthquake for us,″ Maynard said.

Cobb sued in 1994 over an article headlined ``The Fix Was In.″ The story began with an anecdote about the 1992 bout between Cobb and Sonny Barch, a journeyman fighter and former Memphis State football player.

The magazine reported that Cobb and Barch discussed how to throw the fight. The story said Cobb had an injured shoulder and wanted it to end as quickly as possible.

In the article, Barch said he told Cobb: ``I’m going to have to hit you to make it look good. But I won’t hit your shoulder.″ Barch told Sports Illustrated that Cobb responded: ``Bubba, I appreciate it. I’ll make it up to you.″

Barch allowed Cobb to hit him three times, dropping to a knee each time and triggering the three-knockdown rule, Sports Illustrated reported. Cobb was declared the winner by technical knockout.

The magazine also reported that Barch said he, Cobb and a fight promoter shared cocaine after the bout. Sports Illustrated said Cobb had tested positive for cocaine use, but said in a follow-up item that it was marijuana.

Eddie Wayland, another lawyer for Sports Illustrated, told the jury the article by writers William Nack and Sonja Steptoe was accurate and that any damage done to Cobb’s reputation was the result of his own actions.

``They believed the story was true. They believed it then and they believe it now,″ Wayland said.

However, Steptoe testified last month she had little evidence that Cobb was a willing participant in a fixed fight with Barch.

Since he quit fighting, Cobb has had roles in several movies, including ``Liar, Liar, ``Raising Arizona,″ ``Uncommon Valor″ and ``The Golden Child.″ He has also been in the TV shows ``Moonlighting″ and ``MacGyver.″

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