A Los Angeles federal judge refused Monday to throw out a doctor’s libel case against author Bob Woodward for alleged “inaccuracies and untruths” in his book about the late comedian John Belushi.
U.S. District Judge William Kelleher denied the motion by Woodward’s lawyers to throw out the libel case filed by Dr. Robert J. Feder, a Beverly Hills eye, ear, nose and throat specialist.
Allan Browne, Feder’s attorney, said he and his client eagerly await the trial, which he hopes will take place in the next six to nine months.
Browne said Woodward was wrong when he asserted that the doctor had given Belushi and other celebrity patients amphetamines on demand when they needed the drugs to perform.
“Not only will we prove that there were inaccuracies and untruths about Dr. Feder,” Browne said, “but there will be a stream of witnesses, who are Hollywood celebrities, who will testify as to the blatant half-truths and misstatements in the book.”
Attorney Robert V. Kuenzel, representing Woodward, said Kelleher’s ruling is simply a preliminary step in the suit.
“There’s a long way to go,” the lawyer said. “We may have more interesting things to say when we start dealing with what’s really true and with what the circumstances are.”
In court earlier, attorneys for Woodward and Feder gave differing views on whether Woodward’s book libeled the doctor.
Kuenzel argued that the plaintiff had not presented specific enough evidence concerning segments he claims are false in the book, “Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.”
Browne specifically cited a section of the book that claimed that Feder was treating Belushi for cocaine addiction but gave him amphetamines, although he knew he might abuse them.
“It’s like going to a doctor for alcoholism and the patient going in and saying ‘Doctor, do you have a drink?’ ” Browne said. “To think that is not the most damaging thing to Dr. Feder’s professional reputation is absurd.”
Kuenzel said Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post and now an assistant managing editor, obtained permission from the Belushi estate for the comedian’s doctor to be interviewed about his treatment.
The book, an investigative-style biography, details Belushi’s plunge into drugs after finding success as the star of television’s “Saturday Night Live” and such movies as “Animal House.”
Belushi, 33, was found dead March 5, 1982, in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood. The coroner listed his cause of death as acute heroin and cocaine poisoning.
Cathy Evelyn Smith, a one-time backup singer with rock groups, is accused of injecting Belushi with the fatal overdose.