A jury on Friday found Soldier of Fortune magazine liable for $12.4 million in damages for running a “gun for hire” ad blamed on the 1985 killing of a businessman.
A lawyer for the sons of Richard Braun had urged the U.S. District Court jury to send a message to publishers by ruling that the classified ad was responsible for Braun’s death.
Attorneys for the magazine argued in the 1st Amendment case that the publication should not be held liable and that publishers have no duty to research the background of their advertisers.
Those closing arguments were offered in a lawsuit, which sought $120 million, against the Boulder, Colo.-based magazine. It was the second such case against the magazine to go to trial.
In the previous trial, seeking damages in a woman’s slaying in 1985, a Houston jury returned a $9.4-million verdict. That award was reversed on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court let the decision stand.
In the Alabama lawsuit, the jury heard 4 1/2 days of testimony before it began deliberating.
Brothers Michael and Ian Braun blamed their father’s death on a “gun for hire” classified ad in the magazine’s June, 1985, issue by Richard Savage of Knoxville, Tenn. The Brauns contended that their father’s business associate, Bruce Gastwirth, used the ad to arrange to have Braun killed.
Michael, then 16, was wounded in the Aug. 27, 1985, attack in the family’s driveway in Atlanta.
Savage’s classified ad read: “GUN FOR HIRE: 37-year-old professional mercenary desires jobs. Vietnam veteran. Discrete and very private. Body guard, courier and other special skills. All jobs considered.”
In 1986, the magazine stopped running such ads.
Gastwirth, Savage and two associates were convicted of Braun’s killing. Savage already had been convicted in a similar murder-for-hire case in West Palm Beach, Fla.