Radio tirade ends in court: Juneau listener sues 'shock-jock' host
JUNEAU — A syndicated radio talk-show host is being sued by a Juneau woman who says she suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of his show.
Karen Carpenter wants damages from host Tom Leykis and Westwood One, the show's production company. The trial began Wednesday in Juneau Superior Court. Carpenter raised the ire of the "shock jock" after campaigning to get a Juneau radio station to drop his show.
Though the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, Carpenter's original complaint asked for $2 million plus unspecified punitive damages.
"I think she's motivated by revenge and a desire for money," said Leslie Longenbaugh, Leykis' attorney. Leykis refused to comment Friday.
Leykis' weekday show is carried in about 50 cities — including Seattle's KQBZ-FM (100.7) — and has been described as "shock-jock" radio. He is known for his regular segments, such as "Leykis 101," in which he tells men how to get sex with minimum effort.
He recently made headlines in Seattle after revealing the name of a woman who jumped from the Ship Canal Bridge last fall, ignoring the policies of most news organizations not to identify those who try to take their own lives.
The dispute in Juneau stems from Carpenter's efforts in July 1998 to get KJNO-AM to drop Leykis' show. She wrote to the station threatening to boycott local advertisers and complained about the station's airing a church ad during the show.
The station eventually dropped Leykis' show.
But on the show's final broadcast in Juneau, Leykis read Carpenter's letter on the air, mimicking the voice of an old woman, and named her. He also launched a verbal attack.
"Well, Karen, I have a little something that you could use right now," Leykis said, according to a transcript of the broadcast, and he played a sound effect of a buzzing vibrator while continuing with sexually explicit suggestions and calling her a moron and a cretin.
During that broadcast, several people from Juneau called in to support Leykis and deride Carpenter. One caller also tried to give out Carpenter's home-phone number. While Westwood One blocked some of the digits, the caller gave the entire number of Carpenter's home fax machine.
At home that evening, Carpenter began receiving harassing faxes, phone calls and hang-ups on the phone, and began to crumble, said her attorney, Ray Brown.
Brown asked the jury to punish Leykis severely and compensate Carpenter for what he called 2-1/2 years of hell, including drug treatment and psychological therapy.
Leykis is in Juneau for the trial and testified last week. From the stand, he said the show's engineer was mistaken in not blocking the fax number. But he added that his show is comedic entertainment, and he didn't see how words could cause emotional distress.
Longenbaugh said Carpenter was misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress and is exaggerating her symptoms. Carpenter's attorneys denied that claim.
The trial is expected to last two weeks. While he is in Juneau, Leykis is broadcasting his show from a local studio, although the show remains off the air in Juneau.
Alaska Broadcast Communications, licensee of KJNO, also was named in Carpenter's lawsuit and settled with her for $100,000 without admitting wrongdoing.