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Polis Report

Astro Nots

By Michael Mechanic

At a recent court hearing in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Jim Hardy, the attorney for astronaut James Lovell, didn't do what might seem to be the obvious move and ask the judge to dismiss Soquel-based conspiracy writer Bill Kaysing's improbable libel lawsuit against his client. Instead, Hardy and Kaysing agreed to an October trial date, giving the lawyer plenty of time for discovery--legalese for dirt-digging. (In court papers, Lovell's lawyers suggest they may ask for a dismissal after discovery is "substantially completed.")

Kaysing, who wrote a book called We Never Went to the Moon, filed what amounts to a nuisance suit against the astronaut last year following a Metro article in which Lovell called the writer "wacky." Legal experts who were contacted agree that calling someone "wacky" does not a successful libel suit make. If anything, Kaysing's wild accusation that Lovell is a liar who participated in a government conspiracy to fool the public is more harsh than being called wacky.

If Lovell prevails, as is likely, Kaysing may have to pay for the astronaut's legal costs--and they probably won't be cheap. Not to fear, the 74-year-old Kaysing says. He's already broke. "If you're going to fight the government, you've got to get rid of all your possessions and money," says Kaysing, who lives in an 18-foot trailer with his wife, Ruth. Ruth's battle with Parkinson's disease has forced Bill to max out his credit cards to pay for medical costs not covered by Medi-Cal (a government program).

Despite the odds, Kaysing is confident. "Open and shut case," he proclaims. He insists Lovell damaged his credibility and should pay for doing so. But how much credibility can someone who believes the first moon-landing was a staged hoax filmed by director Stanley Kubrick command? One hopes Kaysing consults someone other than his attorney, who happens to be himself.

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From the January 23-19, 1997 issue of Metro

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