SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2001/Labor Agents

RICO claim vs. Dunn dismissed

A federal judge last week dismissed a claim that agent Leigh Steinberg's former partner David Dunn violated U.S. racketeering laws when he formed a competing agency.

U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew did not rule on any of the other issues in the long-simmering legal dispute, but he said there was no evidence to sustain violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Lew also dismissed a claim that Dunn and Athletes First interfered with prospective clients of Steinberg Moorad & Dunn who had not yet signed contracts. Lew gave attorneys for Steinberg Moorad & Dunn 20 days to amend the lawsuit if they want to try again on the RICO claim.

"The RICO claims were put into the case for publicity to make our guys look like demons and gangsters," said Andrew Kim, the attorney for Dunn and Athletes First. "We are very happy with the court's ruling."

"I don't think we need the RICO claims to paint them as demons and gangsters," said Deanna Allen, a spokeswoman for Assante Corp., which owns Steinberg Moorad & Dunn. "They do that quite well themselves."

The remaining allegations include breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, false advertising and misappropriation of trade secrets. Kim has maintained that Dunn and Athletes First employees did not engage in any wrongdoing.

Russ Sauer, a sports attorney who is not involved in the case, said the ruling was a win for Dunn's side but is just one skirmish in what will likely be a long legal battle.

He noted, too, that it is not unusual for a judge to give plaintiffs the opportunity to amend lawsuits involving civil RICO charges, and it is possible those charges may be revived.

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