In a far-reaching decision that could throw the publishing industry into turmoil, the Federal court of the Southern District of New York has officially banned a controversial AIDS book titled "Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS" from being distributed - even for free - anywhere in the United States.
The verdict against the book, rendered on November 28, ended a contentious five-day trial in which publisher Alfred S. Regnery was suing to stop publication of the book. Judge John E. Sprizzo is expected to enter the official judgment any day now, including a permanent injunction against the book and over half a million dollars in penalties against the book's publisher and main author, Bryan J. Ellison.
The injunction will extend a restraining order that already shut down the book's publication last week.
"As far as I know, this is the first time in American history that the Federal government has banned a documentary book," said Ellison, who was clearly shaken by the decision.
Evan Tolchinsky, the attorney who represented Ellison at the trial, has taken this case without pay because of the free speech issue. "There's no question that this decision represents a radical departure from two hundred years of American legal tradition," he noted.
"Unless this decision is overturned, more books will soon join the banned list, businesses everywhere will suddenly find their contracts invalid, and - worst of all - the AIDS epidemic will continue to claim victims unnecessarily."
The book is controversial because it documents a growing scientific debate over whether the Federal government has blamed the AIDS epidemic on the wrong cause; no charges of indecency, libel, or violation of national security have been made against the book. Instead, Regnery justified his lawsuit against Ellison by trying to enforce a terminated contract made between Ellison and another publisher who had refused to publish the book. Regnery himself has never published the book, nor has he taken any serious measures to do so.
Critics accuse Regnery of illegally reviving the contract merely to shut down the book's publication, and point out that Regnery worked for several years as a high-ranking official in the U.S. Justice Department.
Not surprisingly, some Federal officials have openly stated they do not want the general public to learn about the AIDS information contained in the book. The Federal government currently spends over $7 billion per year on AIDS, all directed against HIV, the virus said to cause AIDS. The Ellison book explains why hundreds of prestigious scientists and physicians now believe the government has blamed AIDS on the wrong cause since 1984, and it provides startling evidence for what many of these scientists believe is the real cause of AIDS.
The book also carefully documents why the government blamed "AIDS" on this virus in the first place, and names the people who designed the War on AIDS.
Widespread distribution of the book could shake public faith in the biomedical research establishment, says Ellison, resulting in budget cuts for numerous Federal agencies. Judge Sprizzo's decision is controversial not only for banning the book, but also for his conduct during the entire lawsuit. Sprizzo, himself a former top official of the Justice Department, remained consistently hostile to Ellison's defense - declaring, for example, that Ellison had no due process rights, and trying several times to replace Ellison's attorney with another who knew little about the case.
During the trial, Sprizzo repeatedly changed the testimony of witnesses and ordered the jury to ignore any testimony that reflected badly on Regnery's case. Sprizzo's final instructions then suddenly redefined the entire lawsuit, thus guaranteeing the jury's verdict against the book.
Peter Duesberg, Ellison's co-author on the book, joined Regnery's side late in the lawsuit. During the trial, Duesberg confessed that he had been contacted by Federal officials who offered him money and other inducements to suppress the information in the book. Duesberg claimed he did not accept these offers, yet he refused to disclose the identities of the officials.
Ellison's supporters believe this case is a turning point that will awaken and outrage the American public against big government and its abuse of power. Not only will he appeal the decision, says Ellison, but a movement against the Public Health establishment will undoubtedly grow around this banned book.
The lawsuit was held in Federal court in the Southern District of New York.
The case number is 95 Civ. 0157 (JES).
Unknown Binding: 292 pages
Publisher: Inside Story Communications (1994)