The attorney who has represented Lamaree "Marty" Miller and his backers for more than a year in a complex legal battle over control of WMNT-TV, Channel 48, resigned abruptly yesterday during a hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Judge Linda Jennings granted Robert Bahret's verbal request to withdraw from the case, and appointed James White, Jr., as a receiver in charge of the assets of L&M Broadcasting Inc., a corporation founded by Mr. Miller and his wife, Linda, that holds stock in another Miller company, L&M Video Productions Inc.
The 11,000-watt Toledo TV station, which is carried on Channel 58 on Buckeye CableSystem and features sports and general entertainment, was bought by Cornerstone Church in 2005 and is operated by a Cornerstone subsidiary, Matrix Broadcast Media Inc. The Federal Communications Commission granted transfer of the station's license to Matrix in May, 2007.
Judge Jennings issued a temporary injunction against the Millers and their corporations filing any new lawsuits or judicial proceedings against Cornerstone, with the possible exception of a bankruptcy filing.
Mr. Bahret, of Holland, asked Judge Jennings for permission to withdraw from two Channel 48 cases pending in her court, but said he did not want to discuss his reasons publicly. Afterward, Mr. Bahret said he and his clients have "fundamental differences," but added: "I still believe in their case. I do believe they're getting hosed by Cornerstone."
The Millers bought the low-power station in 1996 and became financially involved a year later with Cornerstone, an independent Pentecostal church in Maumee with weekly attendance of 6,000 people. The church invested heavily in the station and, when Channel 48 went into receivership in 2005, bought it for $913,000.
In March, Judge Jennings ruled that the Millers "fraudulently" and "wrongly" diverted $125,000 from the station while it was in receivership, using money from advertising sales for personal expenses.
The Millers contend Cornerstone obtained the TV station fraudulently and have asked the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals to hear their case.
The Millers' corporations have filed three times for bankruptcy, and all three were dismissed. Earl Murry, president of L&M Broadcasting's board, said after the hearing, "We will entertain the possibility of filing for bankruptcy without violating any of the injunctions we agreed to."
Judge Jennings scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on Cornerstone's motions seeking monetary sanctions against the Millers, their corporations, and their attorneys, and to consolidate two separate court cases.
The Rev. Robert Pitts, Cornerstone's associate pastor, said afterward, "We are not just asking for monetary sanctions to cover the cost of attorney fees, but also for punitive awards because of all the frivolous filings."
Judge Jennings said the hearing may be postponed until October if Mr. Miller and L&M Broadcasting are granted an extension they requested in the appellate court.
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