By City News Service
A 32-year-old Hollywood man who allegedly made prank phone calls to well-known athletic coaches, leading them to believe they were being offered jobs with professional and college teams, pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony count of eavesdropping.
Lawyers representing Kenneth Edward Tarr said outside court that their client's stunts had been posted on YouTube and he should not be prosecuted.
"Kenny Tarr has been outrageously charged in violation of a statute which has never been used in a context like this," attorney Robert Sheahen proclaimed to reporters. "To file felony charges in a case like this is absurd."
Prosecutors said Tarr illegally recorded more than a half-dozen phone calls, with some of them captured on video and posted online. It is illegal in California in most cases to record a phone conversation without the other person's consent.
According to prosecutors, Tarr called coaches or other officials from NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and college programs and claimed to be representing other teams, gauging their interest in another coaching position.
Sheahen said Tarr is a performance artist and social satirist.
"He carries on the great tradition of Mark Twain, Allen Funt and Andy Kaufman, to name a few," Sheahen said. "In pushing the boundaries of social satire, he ran afoul of the National Football League and the idea that the National Football League, with all of its power and all of its glory, has to come down on this man ... we consider to be outrageous."
Tarr stood quietly alongside his attorneys in a dark suit and tie. He was arrested on Dec. 9, and is now free on $20,000 bail.
Sheahen said others, more famous or perhaps funnier, had not been prosecuted for similar crimes.
"You ever see Ashton Kutcher get prosecuted?" Sheahen asked. "Ashton Kutcher made a career out of this and nobody's ever brought him into court. You can look at recent videos of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber doing the same thing."
Asked why prosecutors would single out his client, Sheahen put the blame on the NFL.
"I think they will kowtow to anything the NFL asks them to do, I think the LAPD is basically afraid of the NFL," Sheahen said.
The defense said it would fight the case based on discriminatory prosecution and requested to be heard on Feb. 18 in Dept. 50, where Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Horwitz presides.
"We think the case is total garbage and we think Judge Horwitz will concur," Sheahen said when leaving the courtroom.
Among the victims of Tarr's calls were University of Hawaii head football coach Norm Chow, Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, NBC News reported.
Tarr allegedly called former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy to offer him the head coaching job at USC.
Tarr allegedly boasted of his having "hoaxed" dozens of sports figures with his phone calls and expressed surprise his calls were returned.
According to NBC News, Tarr told NBC4 sports anchor Fred Roggin that he considered himself to be on the "new frontier of broadcast journalism and sports media," and supplied a video recording of a phone call he had with NBA coach Mark Jackson.
The defense lawyers alleged that police built their case against Tarr using wiretaps of their own, and they said they will challenge the official wiretaps in court.
If convicted, Tarr faces up to three years in jail, according to the District Attorney's Office.