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News Analysis
Dish-AMC Trial Has Become 3-Ring Circus
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2012) -- The three-ring circus known as the AMC/Dish breach-of-contract trial found another ring to perform in yesterday when a sobbing Dish executive stormed out of the courtroom after being insulted by the judge and then returned to yell at an opposition attorney and possibly physically rough up his father who was in a wheelchair.

And all this happened after the judge ruled the hard drive on the executive's computer should be seized immediately because he suspects she's been deleting important evidence, according to the New York Post.

Before we unspool the unbelievable and unkindly details from yesterday, allow us first to set the stage:

AMC is suing Dish for $2.5 billion for dropping the AMC-owned Voom HD Networks from its lineup in 2007. Dish claims Voom failed to live up to its legal obligation to spend $100 million on programming; AMC and Voom says Dish dropped the channels because they felt they could carry other HD channels for less money.

The outcome could have an impact on the now three-month long programming impasse between Dish and AMC. The latter claims that Dish was not sincere in reaching a new deal to carry AMC and two sister networks because it wanted to use the impasse in possible settlement talks in the Voom case.

And the way the trial has been going, Dish may want to engage in those settlement talks sooner than later. Last week, Judge Richard Lowe III threatened to declare a victory for AMC when Dish failed to produce some internal email correspondence in the case. On Monday, Dish produced the emails and they tend to confirm AMC and Voom's account of the controversy.

But yesterday, oh, yesterday, was a doozie.

Judge Lowe spotted Dish programming chief Carolyn Crawford in the courtroom and said she shouldn't be allowed there because her future testimony will be crucial to the case. Lowe then noted that Crawford's computer suddenly disappeared back in 2007 when the Voom controversy was at its zenith and he ordered that Crawford's current hard drive be seized. The judge inferred that Dish and Crawford may have deleted emails important to the case.

He also called Crawford "that woman," according to various news reports.

That apparently was enough to send a sobbing Crawford flying through the exit doors of the courtroom, even though the judge quickly apologized.

But Crawford returned and approached attorneys for AMC and Voom. According to the Post, she wagged her finger at the attorneys and the judge and then somehow got into an argument with the father of a AMC/Voom attorney. The attorney, Orin Snyder, said Crawford pushed his Dad and he then called the cops.

At day's end, it was unclear how the scuffle would be resolved but no arrests were made. And legal observers were busily trying to figure out how this crazy trial would have a happy ending. The early consensus is that it will result in a mistrial or Dish will have to settle for as much as $1 billion.

And to make things a bit more interesting, outspoken Dish chief Charlie Ergen is scheduled to testify today.
Update: Wall Street analyst Rich Greenfield just tweeted this morning that the judge is sending the jury home until Monday so no Ergen today. No reason as to why the jury is getting a break, although I think we can guess.




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