Producers of an upcoming national television show starring the former anchor of Fox TV's "A Current Affair" may launch their syndicated series in September with a story on the Gary Hart trial.
The 2 1/2-week courtroom drama in Annapolis, which ended July 3 with a verdict of not guilty, featured sensational testimony that delved into the alleged victim's personal life. She was accused of working as a prostitute and having a mental disorder that made her fantasize about rape.
That digging by defense lawyers has drawn criticism from the woman who accused Hart, a prominent real estate broker, and from the prosecutor, who called the tactics disgusting.
And that is why the trial could make national television.
"Everybody can relate to it," said Eddie Jacobson, a field producer. "We want a subject where peoplecan say, 'This guy is right or wrong.' This woman is either full of stuff and giving Hart a hard time or, vice versa, this man ran roughshod over the woman and then his attorney continued it in court."
Jacobson said he started calling participants in the trial last week, seeking background information and trying to determine who would be willing to go on the show. He said producers have not yet determined whether the Hart story will appear on the Sept. 9 debut, scheduled to appear on Baltimore's Channel 11 at 4 p.m.
"It is an interesting story," Jacobson said. "We are researching it."
The show's format will include a short opening segment outlining the story and will thenturn to questions from host Maury Povich and the studio audience, Jacobson said.
It took eight men and four woman 3 1/2 hours to find Hart not guilty of raping and choking the 34-year-old woman in his Thomas Point Road home following a date Oct. 16.
Hart admitted in court that he had sex with the woman that day, but testified it was consensual.
Hart's defense team introduced evidence that the woman suffers from a mental disorder that causes her to fantasize about beingraped. The jury also heard testimony that she had told psychiatriststhat she killed a Michigan police officer who raped her when she was16. The victim admitted making up the story about killing the officer.
Defense attorneys also tried to present evidence that the womanonce worked as a prostitute for a College Park escort service, but the judge barred them from doing so.
Hart's lawyers said they needed to present the personal information as evidence to prove to the jury the woman was not a credible witness and that she has a history of making up stories about rape.
The woman said yesterday that she would consider sharing her experience with a national audience. "My feeling is that I should go on and talk about how women are being unfairly victimized in court."
But the woman said she has many unanswered questions, such as the show's format, who else would appear and whether or not she would have to go public with her name. She also said she wants to get advice from the State's Attorney's office.
Jacobson said he has contacted Hart and described him as interested. "Hart feels he has a story to tell. He said he would think about being on the show."
Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II said hewas contacted by Jacobson last week. He said he would consider goingon the show if the producers decided to follow through but worries about further sensationalizing the trial.
"If it's like 'Geraldo,' I won't do it," Mulford said. "I didn't think there would be such a sustained interest. I was certainly surprised when I got the phone call. It was nothing I expected."
Mulford said he would not advise the woman against appearing on the show. "She will have to do what she feels comfortable with," he said.
Jacobson said producers haven't thought about letting the woman appear on the show without divulging her identity. He said they would deal with that issue once they make a final decision on covering the trial.
The woman said yesterday that she isn't ready to have her name made public, saying she has losttwo jobs since accusing Hart in December. Although her name is part of public records, newspapers generally do not publish names of alleged rape victims.