- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Fairfax County judge has sanctioned six attorneys representing the owners of the Ringling Bros. circus and ordered them to pay $51,000 in fines to the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for contempt of court and other violations.

PETA sued Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment — which produces the Ringling circus, the defunct Siegfried and Roy show in Las Vegas, Disney on Ice and other well-known shows — more than four years ago.

The group claimed that Feld Entertainment ran an extensive corporate-espionage campaign against it and other animal-rights groups. According to PETA, Feld went so far as to pay millions of dollars to former top CIA operative Clair George to help run its spy operation.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Stitt issued the sanctions last week in response to what PETA says are obstructionist tactics that Feld’s attorneys have employed throughout the history of the lawsuit.

“Fortunately, the court’s orders have stopped the misconduct of Feld’s lawyers in this case and move us one step closer to getting to the bottom of Feld’s conspiracy,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said.

One of the attorneys, Joseph Petrosinelli of the law firm Williams and Connolly, was found in contempt of court for interfering with a deposition and ordered to pay $11,305 to PETA.

Mr. Petrosinelli and five other attorneys — Barry Simon, George A. Borden, Matthew B. Andelman, William B. Porter and John A.C. Keith, a past president of the Virginia Bar Association — were sanctioned and fined $40,000 for improperly accusing Judge Stitt of judicial misconduct and trying to get him thrown off the case.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Judge Stitt said of the attorneys’ actions, according to court transcripts.

PETA’s attorney, Philip Hirschkop, said Feld’s team had accused Judge Stitt of having improper conversations about the case with Mr. Hirschkop, an accusation Mr. Hirschkop said was ridiculous.

Mr. Simon, who served as lead defense counsel, according to court records, declined comment through his office. Mr. Petrosinelli did not return calls seeking comment.

Feld Entertainment also did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. George, the CIA’s former covert operations director, was convicted of perjury for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal but was later pardoned by President George Bush. He gave a deposition in an unrelated case and acknowledged he did consulting work for Feld and helped oversee its surveillance of various animal-rights groups.

Mr. Hirschkop said Mr. George was paid more than $5 million by Feld and that the espionage was on a massive scale, including theft of numerous internal PETA documents and mailing lists.

The lawsuit seeks $1.8 million in damages and full disclosure of Feld’s espionage efforts.

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