Crime

Disbarred Anti-Video Game Attorney Wants to Save the Parkland Shooter

Disbarred attorney Jack Thompson believes Nik Cruz's video game habit played a role in the Parkland shooting.
Disbarred attorney Jack Thompson believes Nik Cruz's video game habit played a role in the Parkland shooting. Photos via Broward Sheriff's Office, Youtube screenshot
You know that person who doesn't know when to leave the party, long after everyone has expected them to hit the road?

In Florida's legal world, that person is John B. "Jack" Thompson, a Coral Gables attorney who was disbarred for professional misconduct in 2008 and is now attempting to insert himself into the sentencing phase of the trial of 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people and wounded 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine's Day 2018. Last year Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the mass shooting.

Dating back to the late '80s and early '90s, Thompson was a frequent topic of coverage in New Times as he mounted a legal assault against Luther Campbell's rap group the 2 Live Crew and tried to ban the album As Nasty As They Wanna Be from music-store shelves on the grounds that it was obscene. He has also waged a decades-long battle against video games he considers to be obscene and violent and which he contends are responsible for indoctrinating young people to re-enact the violence they're simulating — and, in extreme cases, to become mass shooters.

In a nutshell, Thompson asserts that Nikolas Cruz's Halo habit played a significant role in the Parkland shooting. He seeks to assist the defense team in order to spare Cruz from the death penalty.

In 20 court documents filed since March of 2018, Thompson has petitioned the court to enter the case as amicus curiae — a legal term that translates from the Latin to "friend of the court" — portraying himself as an internationally recognized expert on school shootings. Thompson has requested to introduce an expert witness on violent video games' alleged link to mass shootings and to interview Cruz himself. (A copy of Thompson's initial motion is attached at the end of this article).

"I've asked to meet with [Cruz] and ask if the reports of him playing violent video games are true," Thompson tells New Times. "I want to ask, 'Did you feel you were acting out the game?'"

Some context: In 2017, the American Psychological Association Task Force on Violent Media concluded that exposure to violent video games is linked to "increased aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, as well as decreased empathy" but that there was insufficient evidence to determine "whether violent video game exposure was linked to criminality or delinquency."

Regardless, Broward Public Defender Gordon Weekes, whose office is defending the shooter, doesn't want Thompson's help and tells New Times he has little to say regarding the self-proclaimed expert's repeated attempts to enter the case unasked.

"I have nothing to add on outside individuals trying to insert themselves into this case and into the pains that this community has endured moving forward," Weekes says.

In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court recommended that Thompson be disbarred for attempting to harm his opponents' reputation "with utter disregard to the administration of justice and complete indifference to the consequences his conduct would have on their lives," as Miami Circuit Court Judge Dava Tunis put it in her recommendation to disbar him. Thompson reportedly sent gay porn, swastikas, and renderings of an actual kangaroo court to the Florida Supreme Court and badgered an Alabama judge by sending documents to his office up to five times a day.

After he was stripped of his law license, Thompson enrolled in a seminary and became a Bible teacher in the Florida prison system.

Disbarment hasn't stopped Thompson from pursuing his crusade against violent video games — which he refers to as "murder simulators" — and repeatedly inserting himself into the legal process even after being told no. He has been attempting to insert himself into the Parkland case for the past four years. So incessant were his attempts, in fact, that in November of 2018 the state filed a motion to bar him from filing any more motions with the court.

"Mr. Thompson has abused the process by filing frivolous pleadings in this matter, where he has no standing, and has no authorization to file any pleadings," assistant state attorney Joel Silvershein wrote in a motion to Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer.

While Scherer didn't bar further filings from Thompson, she denied his request to enter the case after he voluntarily withdrew his motion after failing to elicit a response.

Nevertheless, he continued filing motions to enter the case and requested to submit expert testimony as recently as February of this year.

Speaking to New Times, Thompson says he didn't remember withdrawing his motion and didn't receive the judge's order. Upon being notified of the denial, he said he has decided to withdraw the motion again and focus on helping with Cruz's appeal process after the sentencing phase of the trial is over.

The basis for his appeals argument? Gaming.

"I think [Scherer] is going to sentence him to death, and there will be an automatic appeal," Thompson explains. "I'm going to concentrate on assisting the appeal counsel on the basis of the failure of this court to consider the video game issue."
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos