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Judge Orders New Trial in NRA Case

September 15, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal judge has ordered a new trial in a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, saying a $4.45-million award to two NRA members over a scuffle at a convention was excessive and due to bias against the organization.

U.S. District Judge Clarence C. Newcomer on Tuesday rejected the NRA’s request to dismiss the case.

But he wrote that he could not endorse ``the disproportionate enormity of the outcome,″ and that he had ``no doubt that the excessive damages awarded were a result of passion, prejudice or bias against the NRA and not because of the evidence.″

Kenneth Brodbeck of Des Moines, Iowa, sued the NRA and its president, Charlton Heston, for defamation and battery, saying he was roughed up by an NRA security guard during the group’s national convention in Philadelphia last year.

Brodbeck also said Heston accused him of ``very bad acting″ in an attempt to disrupt the NRA meeting. Brodbeck’s wife, Sally, was part of an NRA faction opposed to the current leadership, according to the NRA.

Following a trial in which the 75-year-old former actor took the witness stand, the jury in May awarded Brodbeck and his wife a total of $4.45 million in damages. The amount included a $2.7 million punitive award for damage to the Brodbecks’ reputation.

Newcomer set a retrial for Dec. 6 but ordered a pretrial conference for Sept. 27. He urged attorneys to ``be prepared to discuss an amicable resolution to this case.″

Former U.S. Attorney Michael M. Baylson, one of the lawyers defending the NRA, said his clients were pleased with the ruling.

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