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Suns deny using bias claim to make money

June 29, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

In the second day of a hearing to determine whether the Hagerstown Suns Church Bulletin Days promotion is discriminatory, the Suns were accused by opposing counsel of using the controversy to make money and of purposely destroying evidence.

Both statements were denied by the Suns and their lawyer Joseph A. Schwartz III.

The Suns offered a slightly different version of the events of April 12, 1998. On that day, which was Easter Sunday, self-proclaimed agnostic Carl Silverman, of Waynesboro, Pa., demanded that he and his two daughters be let into Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium for a discounted price even though he did not present a church bulletin.

Contradicting earlier testimony from Silverman, the Suns Director of Ticket Sales Leslie Guy Seville testified that he offered Silverman a church bulletin when Silverman demanded a discount on that day.

Seville said that Silverman refused the offer and said he was not religious.

On Monday, Silverman testified that he was not given any option for receiving a discount other than coming up with his own church bulletin.

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Seville testified that he told team General Manager David Blenckstone and team owner Winston Blenckstone that he offered Silverman a church bulletin.

Michael Berman, a lawyer for Silverman, challenged Seville's version of events, at one point asking that Seville's entire testimony be stricken from the record.

Administrative Law Judge Georgia Brady, who is presiding over the hearing, denied that request.

Berman also asked to see the specific church bulletin that Seville said he offered Silverman. When Seville said it had been discarded, Berman accused the Suns of intentionally destroying a piece of evidence.

Berman pointed out that none of the Suns press releases on the matter ever mentioned that Silverman had been offered a church bulletin.

Later, while questioning David Blenckstone, Berman said that some believe that the Suns have profited as a result of the controversy.

David Blenckstone said that the team has gotten a lot of publicity as a result of the case and some financial benefit.

He said that if one figures in the legal bills for the case, the controversy has actually cost them money.

Lawyers for both sides said the hearing could conclude today, and a ruling on the matter could take a month or six weeks.

The Maryland Commission on Human Relations, which charged the Suns with discrimination based on Silverman's claims, is seeking a court order that would force the Suns to stop the 6-year-old promotion, a $500 civil penalty against the team, sensitivity training for Suns officials, and an order that the Suns provide discounted tickets for people like Silverman who didn't previously get the discount because of their personal beliefs.

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