Much Ado About Very Little

How a dinner companion of the state attorney took issue with "Talk of Our Town' columnist Joan Fleischman & the Herald, etc.

Officer Stahl says the hearing itself was strange because Efron represented his daughter, and brought along his own court stenographer, highly unusual in a mere traffic ticket case. "I think he was trying to turn the hearing into a deposition," Stahl offered. "He kept trying to tie the ticket into my affiliation with the PBA [Stahl is on the board of directors]." Efron appeared upset when he lost the case, Stahl said. "He let me know this wasn't the end of it." Said Efron: "How does a police officer just call in [to the station] and then he gets a call from the Herald? Then to justify it, he said the car was 'swerving.' It makes an innuendo, particularly when [Fleischman] brings in Kathy Rundle's son's arrest in the same column."

Filed in December 2001, the suit went through two judges before being dismissed January 22 by Judge Norman Gerstein. The original judge, Amy Dean, recused herself halfway through the case. Efron says it's because she was retiring from the bench, but Bohrer believes Dean's decision had something to do with an argument she had with Efron's attorney, Bailey, after she confiscated his ringing cell phone during a hearing. Efron laments Gerstein's decision to dismiss the case, and, perhaps not surprisingly, sees the long arm of the Herald at work. "I don't know if this is a new judge worried about upsetting the only newspaper in town," Efron fumed. "The judge was not acting in the fair manner you would hope for."

But Bohrer points out that Gerstein has been a popular judge in the Circuit Court for many years. "It's a frivolous lawsuit," he complained. "There's nothing to it, other than cooked-up, crazy allegations of a conspiracy."

And Rundle's reaction? Relief that the whole affair is over. From a statement faxed to New Times: "I don't like lawsuits generally, and this one is no exception."

Efron says he plans to appeal.

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