February 3, 1995 in Nation/World

Whatever Happened, It Was Worth About $50,000

William Miller Staff writer
 

Was legendary stuntman Evel Knievel roughed up in his downtown Spokane hotel room five years ago?

Don’t ask the jury.

Six jurors walked away from the invasion-of-privacy trial Thursday convinced Knievel was slugged during a 10th-floor surprise attack.

The other six believe he made up the whole thing.

Despite being split on the key issue of the case, the panel of seven women and five men somehow reached a unanimous verdict.

After 15 hours of deliberations over three days, the jury awarded Knievel $50,750 in damages.

The money is intended to compensate the 56-year-old former motorcycle daredevil for a bad call by a Ridpath Hotel desk clerk.

Convinced Knievel and Clarence “Cip” Paulsen III were friends, the clerk handed Paulsen a spare key to Knievel’s room the night of Sept. 11, 1989.

Paulsen, 35, admitted barging into the 10th-floor deluxe room, where he found his ex-girlfriend in bed with Knievel.

During the trial, Knievel claimed the bigger man attacked him in a jealous rage.

Paulsen denied laying a hand on his “friend.”

At the start of the trial, the hotel admitted breaking its own privacy rules in releasing the room key without Knievel’s permission.

Ridpath lawyer Michael Nelson, however, argued the “fight” never occurred, or at least couldn’t be proved, because Knievel didn’t see a doctor for 11 days.

Jurors said they kept waiting for the mysterious woman in bed with Knievel that night to take the witness stand and help settle the issue.

But she never materialized. Lawyers on both sides said they couldn’t find her.

“The evidence that was presented to us was insufficient in many respects,” juror Richard Ely complained afterward.

Other jurors said they had trouble believing the boastful Knievel because he kept contradicting himself.

“He was very inconsistent on everything,” said one juror.”Slippery.”

The $50,000 award was a fraction of what Knievel’s lawyers, Carl and George Diana, had hoped for.

Before a long list of big-money claims were tossed out by the judge, the celebrity was demanding more than $7 million from the Ridpath and its parent company, WestCoast Hotels Inc.

Diana wound up asking for $130,000 in economic damages and an unspecified additional sum for emotional distress.

“We really felt we were entitled to more than we received,” Carl Diana said of the award.

Nelson was also disappointed by the size of the award.

“It’s higher than I thought it would be,” he said.

In his closing argument, Nelson said Knievel was only entitled to $422 - the unpaid hotel bill.

Knievel was in Las Vegas on Thursday, according to his lawyers. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

In the Spokane County Jail where he awaits sentencing for federal drug offenses, Paulsen scoffed at the verdict.

“Those jurors also probably really believe he was going to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle,” Paulsen said. “And I bet they probably even bought tickets, too.

“The award is a sham and a scam,” Paulsen said.


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