The Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) harbored reservations about the legality of HB 353, the video game/movie bill conceived by Jack Thompson.
Trib reporter Robert Gehrke writes:
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff... told me last night that his office had expressed its concerns "with several different iterations of the bill" while it was pending before the Legislature.
"Ultimately, we could probably make an argument to defend it, but we will be sued, it will be costly. If we lose we will pay attorneys fees. Wouldn't you rather spend that money educating people about the rating system?" he asked. "The governor apparently decided it wasn't worth the risk."
There would seem to be little love lost between Shurtleff and Thompson. During the disbarred attorney's previous attempt to legislate games in Utah, he called for Shurtleff's impeachment after the A.G. opined that Thompson's 2007 bill was constitutionally-challenged. The bill was subsequently tabled by the Utah House.
Thompson, who apparently got wind of Shurtleff's comments in advance, disputed the A.G.'s remarks in a harshly-worded e-mail sent last evening:
We told you for weeks that if you had any constitutional concerns, we wanted to provide you any information you wanted in that regard. I offered repeatedly to meet with you and talk with you, and you ignored my repeated plaintive requests to do so...
We heard absolutely NOTHING from you as to the bill’s alleged unconstitutionality, and yet now we hear... that you were badmouthing it in that regard, I presume to Gov. Huntsman as well...
For his part, Shurtleff has been both a critic of violent video games as well as a supporter of the ESRB rating system. In 2005, for example, he urged Utah retailers to boycott Eidos's controversial cops-and-robbers shooter, 25 to Life.
In 2006 Shurtleff made an industry-funded public service announcement in which he urged parents to utilize ESRB ratings. As GamePolitics has reported, Shurtleff received a $3,000 campaign donation from the ESA in May of 2008.