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Parents blame Kentucky school shooting on Hollywood, video game makers

The Associated Press


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John Thompson, ...
John Thompson, left, with Michael Breen, attorneys for parents of high school shooting victims in Paducah, Ky.

PADUCAH, Ky. — The parents of three students killed during a shooting spree at a Kentucky high school are taking on the entertainment industry, claiming that media violence inspired the boy who fired the shots.

The parents yesterday filed a $130 million federal lawsuit against two Internet porn sites, several computer game companies and the makers and distributors of the 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio film "The Basketball Diaries."

"We intend to hurt Hollywood. We intend to hurt the video game industry. We intend to hurt sex porn sites" on the Internet, said Jack Thompson, one of the parents' lawyers.

The lawsuit claims that confessed shooter Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old freshman at Heath High School at the time of the Dec. 1, 1997, shootings, was influenced by the violence in "The Basketball Diaries" and by several violent computer games such as "Doom," "Quake," and "Mortal Kombat."

One scene in "The Basketball Diaries" shows a dream sequence in which the main character, played by DiCaprio, guns down his teacher and some of his classmates.

The suit also charges that Carneal was an avid computer user who logged onto Internet porn sites to view sexually violent material.

The shooting spree claimed the lives of Jessica James, Kayce Steger and Nicole Hadley and wounded five other students.

"We believe the Heath shooter was influenced by the movies he watched, the computer games he played and the Internet sites he visited," Sabrina Steger, Kayce's mother, told reporters.

Carneal pleaded guilty but mentally ill last October to nine charges, including three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder. In December, he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.

Among the defendants listed in the lawsuit are the film's makers and distributors, including Time Warner Inc. and Polygram Film Entertainment Distribution Inc.; computer game makers Nintendo of America Inc., Sega of America Inc. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.; and the Internet sex sites Network Authentication Systems Inc. and Meow Media Inc.

The parents also filed a state lawsuit last December charging Carneal, his parents and several administrators, teachers and students at the school with being partly responsible for the shootings.

Visiting Judge Will Shadoan later dismissed 24 defendants — 19 administrators and teachers and five students — from the lawsuit. But the parents have asked the Kentucky Court of Appeals to reinstate the 24 as defendants.


Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against movie, video game makers
Media producers could not foresee that Paducah, Ky., teen would go on shooting spree, court finds.  04.07.00


Connecticut woman sues video game maker after son's death
Noah Wilson, 13, died in 1997 after he and friend imitated 'Mortal Kombat' fight scene.  12.28.00