Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ante Up For Africa

More Big Name Stars Come Out To Play At The 3rd Annual Ante Up For Africa Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament

LOS ANGELES, CA (June 18, 2009) – Stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Brad Garrett, Mekhi Phifer, and top poker professional Phil Hellmuth have joined the growing list of celebrities who plan to play in the Ante Up For Africa charity tournament July 2 at the 40th annual World Series of Poker. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars are expected to go all in for the 3rd Ante Up For Africa (AUFA) Celebrity-Charity poker tournament.

Annually, the largest celebrity poker tournament in Las Vegas, the event is accessible for the public to play with their favorite stars or watch as spectators. A full house of celebrities will join Academy Award Nominee, Don Cheadle and “Celebrity Apprentice Star” and WSOP Bracelet winner Annie Duke at the event taking place during the 2009 WORLD SERIES OF POKER® (WSOP) at Rio in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 2 at 2 PM.

This No-Limit Hold’em poker tournament has an entry fee of $5,000 and provides entrants the opportunity to walk away with a six-figure payday. The event allows players to rub elbows with top Hollywood stars, athletes and poker professionals while contributing to a great cause. Celebrities and athletes will join poker’s most notable players to raise public awareness and funds to support the victims of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

Among those confirmed to participate, subject to availability, are Cheadle, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Brad Garrett, Cedric The Entertainer, Charles Barkley, Danny Masterson, Herschel Walker, Jason Alexander, Kenny Smith, Montel Williams, DEan Cain, Tia Carrere, Sarah Silverman, Mike Tyson, Nelly, Rob Schneider; Poker Professionals Howard Lederer, Andy Bloch, Tiffany Michelle, Erik Seidel and Phil Hellmuth with more to be confirmed.

The tournament will feature a fast-paced structure designed to complete the competition within five hours. Seating for the tournament is open to anyone age 21 or older. Players can register in person at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, or online through June 18, 2009 at under the registration tab.

This event, as is every World Series of Poker tournament, is open to the public for viewing and admission is free. The event will take place in the famed Amazon Ballroom in the Rio Convention Center, just one day prior to the start of the WSOP Main Event, the game’s most prestigious poker event.

Cheadle, an accomplished poker player, and Duke, who has more than $4 million in tournament winnings, are committed to raising both public awareness about the tragedy in Darfur and funds to aid its victims. As the world’s richest sporting event, the WSOP awarded more than $180 million in 2008 and attracted participants from a record 124 nations.

In the previous events, many of the in the money finishers volunteered to donate half of their winnings to the charity. Proceeds from the event will go to the ENOUGH Project and Refugees International, organizations whose goals include raising public awareness and providing aid to the survivors of Darfur.
More information about the tournament is available at If you would like more information regarding the organization, please log onto and follow us on twitter at

For more information, please contact:
Danika Berry for Ante Up For Africa
db Agency Public Relations

Seth Palansky for WSOP

Deanna Pettit for Rio

About the World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the largest, richest and most prestigious gaming event in the world awarding millions of dollars in prize money and the prestigious gold bracelet, globally recognized as the sport's top prize. Featuring a comprehensive slate of tournaments in every major poker variation, the WSOP is poker's longest running tournament in the world, dating back to 1970. In 2008, the event attracted 58,720 entrants from 124 different countries to the Rio in Las Vegas and awarded over $180 million in prize money. The creation of the new delayed Main Event final table more than doubled ratings on ESPN year-over-year. In December, 2008 the WSOP was named the 7th most admired sports brand in North America by the Turnkey Team Brand Index trailing only the more established NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR and PGA Tour among sports properties. In addition, the WSOP has formed groundbreaking alliances in broadcasting, digital media and corporate sponsorships, while successfully expanding the brand internationally with the advent in 2007 of the World Series of Poker Europe. For more information on the World Series of Poker, please visit our website at
* World Series of Poker and WSOP are trademarks of Harrah's License Company, LLC ("Harrah's"). Harrah's does not sponsor or endorse, and is not associated or affiliated with, This and That or its products, services, promotions or tournaments.

Ante Up For Africa (AUFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 by Don Cheadle, Annie Duke and Norman Epstein. We are dedicated to raising money and awareness for Africans in need. To date, Ante Up For Africa has raised close to $2 million for the cause and has donated to organizations such as Not On Our Watch (NOOW), ENOUGH and The International Rescue Committee. For more information, please log onto


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Thursday, June 11, 2009

California Bullying Case Costs Families Thousands

CA - June 11, 2009) – The Stockdale High ninth-grader thought he was going to a poker game.

Instead, five upperclassmen from his debate team pinned him down, encased him ankles-to-shoulders in plastic wrap and bound him tightly with duct tape, including thick layers over his mouth.

A full half-hour of mockery and threats followed before a trickle of blood from the boy's mouth frightened some of the older students who freed their captive.

Two-and-a-half years later, fallout from the incident in a Stockton hotel room continues.

Five upperclassmen were expelled. They and two other students, their parents and the Kern High School District paid $260,000 to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the boy's father.

The case illustrates the degree to which students, including minors, and their parents can be held financially accountable for bullying allegations.

It also shows that students can be held financially responsible even if they are witnesses or simply know about such incidents, but don't tell authorities.

Two upperclassmen paid the highest settlements: $45,000 apiece. Each student's parents paid an additional $10,000.

Four other students paid $12,500 to $20,000, with parents again ponying up $10,000. The school district paid $42,500.

The case stemmed from an October 2006 incident in which Stockdale's forensics debate team -- many of them honors students -- traveled to Stockton to compete in a three-day tournament at University of the Pacific.

The suit was filed in Kern County Superior Court in October 2007 by Tim Denari, the boy's father. Denari's son is referred to in most filings as John Doe.

The final settlement concluded Monday.

Several parents of accused students said the allegations were overblown and the incident was more a prank than bullying. Insurance companies, in at least four cases, paid the settlement monies.

One set of parents were upset their son, who was not involved in restraining the boy, was punished by the school and dragged into the legal case.


The night of Oct. 27, 2006, John Doe and a sophomore -- later to become a defendant -- were lured by the promise of a poker game to the upperclassmen's room at the Courtyard by Marriott Stockton.

When Doe and the sophomore walked in, "five other students took physical hold of (Doe) and began to wrap him up in plastic wrap and duct tape," a Stockdale High investigation determined.

The sophomore and a ninth-grader already in the room -- who also became a defendant -- ran out when they saw what was happening to the boy. Neither told adults what they'd seen.

The five older students held Doe's hands, feet, stomach and head as they bound him in Saran wrap and tape. One student held his jaws shut to seal his mouth, up to the nostrils, with duct tape.

Then they "made a mockery of Doe, taking pictures of him, all the while laughing, as he lay there mummified and gasping for air," the original complaint said.

They told the boy they were going to tape him to the wall and leave him alone in the room for a few hours. The upperclassmen made several attempts to attach him to the wall.

The boy struggled and fell to the floor each time.

His hands, balled against his belly under the wrappings, "plunged into his stomach, knocking the wind out of him" every time he fell, the complaint said.

The students then flipped him on his back. Brian Wright, who later settled for $45,000, repeatedly dropped a roll of duct tape onto the boy's chest from shoulder height.

The boy panicked and started to cry.

At one point, when the supervising teacher called the room to check on students, Wright held the boy's mouth shut to silence him.

When the boy managed to open a small breathing hole for his mouth, Wright slammed his mouth shut, causing him to bite his tongue.

"Blood then began trickling out of the side of his mouth," according to the complaint, at which point several students worried something was wrong and let him go.

The incident lasted about 30 to 45 minutes.

The next day, two upperclassmen showed off their cell-phone pictures of the taped-up ninth-grader to other students at the tournament.

One of them, Conor O'Sullivan, who settled for $12,500, urinated on Doe's shirt.

The complaint says the high school district was liable because the trip was a school-sponsored event that counted for class credit and the teacher in charge didn't properly monitor and control students.

The district settled months before parents and students reached an agreement with The boy's father. Attempts to reach Richard Bookout, the teacher in charge, on Thursday were unsuccessful.

The district's defense attorney, Anthony DeMaria, termed the settlement as "reasonable" but wouldn't comment further.

DeMaria estimated he has handled six or seven bullying cases in California in the past decade and said it's rare for this kind of case to go to trial.

He also said choosing to sue the parents as well as the students was "unique" and a "strategic decision."


The boy didn't tell his parents or school officials about the wrapping incident until four months later -- after he received a three-day suspension for bullying fellow ninth-grader Yash Patel.

That incident, in February 2007, shows how bullying allegations often are far from clear-cut.

Doe called Patel a "terrorist" and other derogatory terms and touched his face with a fly swatter, a countersuit filed by Patel's family showed.

Denari and his son paid $4,500 to settle the Patels' countersuit.

The Patels paid $5,000. Yash Patel, also a ninth-grader at the time of the Stockton incident, had run out of the room after the upperclassmen began restraining Doe.

Doe told his parents and school police he held the secret because he worried about being an outcast on the forensics team and feared retribution.

While suspended, he told his mother and father about the Stockton trip and other bullying incidents at school.

The Denaris e-mailed a letter to school officials detailing the allegations and demanding a school investigation, saying they would file a criminal complaint and a civil suit "if the truth does not come out."

Less than three weeks later, the school reported the five upperclassmen had admitted to their actions in Stockton and been expelled.


One set of parents involved in the case spoke to The Californian on the record.

William and Greta Lydecker maintain their son Henry, a sophomore at the time, didn't know about the plan and left the hotel room as soon as he saw what was happening.

Lydecker "was not involved with the restraining or wrapping," a school police report concluded.

In the days after the incident, Henry and John Doe were debate partners and won medals, Greta Lydecker said.

Yet the Lydeckers' insurance company paid $27,500 to settle out.

"We feel wrongfully accused," said William Lydecker. "We didn't like the notion of settling. We would rather have had our son cleared of this, but from a financial perspective, here's where we are."

They were disturbed by Stockdale's rush to judgment that "summarily" lumped Henry in with the other students, he said.

Greta Lydecker said Henry was suspended for five days after being "interrogated" by district police and told to write and sign a statement, which would later become evidence in the case.

The school needs to provide an environment where verbal bullying is not allowed, said Greta Lydecker.

"And I think parents need to step up and know that verbal bigotry is every bit as harmful as physical bullying," she said.


The Kern High district and families could very well have been on the hook for more damages if the case had gone to a jury trial.

Last October, the California Court of Appeal (Fourth District) upheld a jury's finding that the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County took little to no action when two high school students were harassed relentlessly because they are gay, according to Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs.

The students were awarded $300,000.

The Poway and Kern incidents should be a wake-up call for school districts, said Lambda attorney Tara L. Borelli.

"These cases should send a strong signal to educators that they have an important obligation to make sure students are safeguarded on campus and at school events," she said.


At least four defendants' settlement payments in the Stockton incident were made by their homeowners insurance policies -- even though the bullying took place in a hotel room 230 miles from Bakersfield.

How can you tell if you'd be covered in a similar situation?

Tully Lehman, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, an industry group, said "it really does behoove parents" to understand the liability portion of their homeowners or renters policies.

Typically, a homeowners policy provides $150,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. Renters often opt for less.

As to whether you'd be covered if your kid bullied or witnessed the bullying of another student, that's trickier. Lehman recommended calling your carrier and asking if you'd be covered.

Even that's not a guarantee. There may be exclusions for willful intent, for example.

Or, he said, something that sounds similar at first might not play out the same way.


Obviously, at a minimum, these kids used poor judgment, said Rick Phillips, director of Community Matters, which developed the Safe School Ambassadors anti-bullying program taught in four district high schools (but not Stockdale).

"It doesn't look like a prank to roll someone up in duct tape in today's world," said Phillips.

But it's the bystanders that are of greater concern for Phillips.

"Where are the kids who knew and didn't do anything? That's my bigger concern than about the guys who made the poor judgment and are paying the penalty now," he said.

With most data showing an increase in bullying, Phillips said, the greater degree of meanness displayed by students, and the lessening of holding peers accountable, is the larger question to which adults should pay attention.

Especially now, he said, because cell phones and social networks allow bullying evidence -- like the pictures of the mummified John Doe -- to spread rapidly, and may even motivate some kids to bully for the thrill of spreading it around to a large audience.

"Kids are confused between fun and reality," Phillips said.

"Is there an opportunity for adults to learn some lessons and realize there is an ethical dilemma here for students about being responsible to speak up when they know there's something unjust going on?" Philips asked.


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