Woman says talk show induced fear of assault

Juneau resident says radio program inflicted serious emotional distress

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2002

A Juneau woman told a jury Monday that she feared being raped after a radio talk-show host talked about her lewdly on the air in July 1998.

Karen Carpenter, who is suing host Tom Leykis and Westwood One, which produces his nationally syndicated show from the Los Angeles area, has charged that the defendants intentionally inflicted serious emotional distress.

Carpenter attracted Leykis' attention after she wrote to local station KJNO-AM in July 1998 seeking to get the show off the air because she considered it vulgar.

Leykis, who was taken off KJNO, read Carpenter's letter over the air during his final Juneau broadcast on July 24, 1998, insulted her and made sexual innuendoes. During the show a caller from Juneau gave out part of her home phone number and all of her home fax number. That evening Carpenter received several faxes and phone calls she considered harassing.

When Carpenter heard part of the show at work at a downtown gift shop, she felt "embarrassment, humiliation. I felt violated physically, sexually, fear because I didn't know what was going to happen. I was very scared," she said in court Monday.

Carpenter said she went to the police to get a device for her phone that would show the phone numbers of callers, but was referred to the phone company. Her phone and fax number were listed in the Juneau phone book.

She said there was only one message on her phone and it repeated Leykis' phrase about her being a "dried up old prune."

There were several faxes on her home machine concerning the Leykis show being taken off the air in Juneau, Carpenter said. All but one were signed and only one was threatening.

Carpenter said she received several harassing phone calls and several calls from friends and supporters. She said she continued to answer the phone that night to be available to her family.

There were no harassing calls or faxes after July 24, she said.

Carpenter said she suffered a panic attack two days after the broadcast and was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital, where she was held overnight to rule out a heart attack.

Carpenter said she continued to work through the summer, but otherwise didn't go out in public. She said she was so scared because she didn't know who might be angry and want to retaliate. Carpenter said her car's brake lines were tampered with, oil was emptied from her car, and a light bulb on her porch was unscrewed.

Carpenter, who makes ceramics and silk-screened products, said she lost her creativity.

Carpenter later applied for public assistance on the grounds of medical necessity and needed a doctor's signature on the application. She was diagnosed at the community mental health center with severe post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychiatrist.

Defense attorney Leslie Longenbaugh did not question Carpenter on Monday, but said she would question her later.

Also testifying Monday was Paul Wert, a clinical psychologist from Spokane, Wash., who reviewed Carpenter's psychological condition for the plaintiffs. He agreed she had post-traumatic stress disorder but said it gradually got better.

Wert, who interviewed Carpenter for 3 1/2 hours in June 2001, also said he gave Carpenter five psychological tests, two of which can detect a person who fakes or exaggerates symptoms, called malingering. He said her results were "absolutely not consistent with malingering."

But Longenbaugh, the defense attorney, elicited that Wert knew of Carpenters' symptoms of stress from her own say-so. When Wert said the symptoms were consistent with information from the community mental health center, Longenbaugh pointed out that also came from Carpenter's self-reported symptoms.

And Longenbaugh elicited under questioning that Wert's tests for malingering reflect Carpenter's condition in June 2001 when she took the tests.

The trial continued today. The defense has not yet presented its case.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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