By Michael E. Miller
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Wilson agrees with Guy Rubin on these points: The scene moved upstairs as Wilson followed Rubin to another office. Rubin shut the door and Wilson tried to interview him through the closed door. Rubin then asked if Wilson still had a camera and tape recorder running. Wilson said he did. Rubin told him to remove the camera and recorder, whereupon Howell and Shapiro went downstairs. Wilson went into the office alone.
Once inside, like a scene from Spy vs. Spy, each man asked the other if he was recording. No, each said. "Then Guy asked, `What's going on?'" Wilson recalls. "I said, `I'm doing an investigation of the law firm, of you and Mr. Seligman [civil attorney for the Willetses].'" Then, according to Wilson, Rubin got Guy Seligman on the speaker phone, and brother Mark Rubin joined the conversation. "Seligman asked, `Isn't this about getting a better price for the tape?'"
Wilson says he replied, "Let me make it very clear what I want. The reason I'm standing here is that you have every right to say what you want to say, or to say nothing." He says he then took out a business card and wrote his cellular phone number on it. "I said to call me if any of them wanted to make a statement."
After some discussion about the possible legal issues at stake, Wilson says Seligman repeated his question: "`Isn't this really about trying to get the tape for a cheaper price?' I said, `I don't want the tape. If you give me the tape now, I won't take it.'"
Wilson claims Guy Rubin then tested him on that point, allegedly asking, "How about this? If we give you the tape, will you just go away and say nothing?"
"You guys don't get it. This isn't about the tape," Wilson recalls answering. As for the 2:30 ultimatum, Wilson says that was his deadline as set by Inside Edition's producers. If any further explanation from the Rubins was to make his report, he would have to have it by then.
Guy Rubin remembers the events differently: "What he [Wilson] wanted to do was get the tape for free after he had already offered to pay for it. If we would have given it to him, he would have had a different type of story." Mark Rubin's account of the exchange affirms his brother's version.
Wilson says he left the Rubins' office and "immediately" drove up to see Broward Assistant State Attorney Joel Lazarus, who is prosecuting the Willets case. Wilson says he questioned Lazarus about various points of law, including illegal videotaping, and that Lazarus told him that if he had witnessed a crime, he could not use a reporter's First Amendment protection to conceal the information from law enforcement officials. After consulting with Inside Edition's attorneys, Wilson says he met again with Lazarus and described what had occurred at the Rubins' law office earlier that day.
Wilson also placed a call to Ellis Rubin that afternoon. The elder Rubin had not been at his office during the confrontation with Guy, and Wilson wanted him to comment. But Ellis was busy and distracted. He told Wilson he didn't know what he was talking about, and hung up.
At four o'clock, prosecutor Joel Lazarus called Rubin to tell him the Willets plea agreement was off.
The story Jane Akre put together for that afternoon's five o'clock broadcast raised questions in Ellis Rubin's mind. She had taped her segment in front of his law office a little after 2:00 p.m. In it, she revealed that Channel 7 had learned of negotiations between Steve Wilson and Guy Rubin that had taken place the night before. She also was aware that, just hours earlier, Guy had shown to Wilson and his crew the secret sex tape, "a tape that no one has ever seen," Akre reported, "a tape that no one knows exists." But Akre had not interviewed either Ellis or Guy Rubin about the meetings with Wilson. So how did she know they had occurred? And how had she learned of it as early as 2:00 p.m.?
For the moment, the links between Inside Edition's Wilson and Channel 7's Akre remained a mystery to the Rubins, but the effects of Akre's broadcast were immediate. The phones in the Rubin law office began to ring off their hooks.
A press conference was scheduled for 8:00 p.m.
For 39-year-old Akre, it was a great scoop in a great story, the sort of work that would look good in any television reporter's demo tape when it came time to scout for another job, and Akre knew about job hopping. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, she had moved from Albuquerque to Tucson to St. Louis before getting her first big break in 1985 -- an anchor position on CNN's Headline News. The time slot wasn't great (3:00 to 7:00 a.m.) but the exposure was: she had an audience that circled the globe.
From CNN Akre moved west to join KICU-TV in San Jose, California. It wasn't exactly the big time. KICU was a UHF station with a relatively weak signal and a pitifully small block for news. But it was a legitimate anchor position nonetheless. It was also Steve Wilson's stomping grounds.