A judge yesterday (Oct. 2) barred a rock band from holding an onstage suicide that its leader vows will occur this weekend during a performance to be broadcast over the Internet.
St. Petersburg, Fla., city officials had asked Circuit Court Judge John C. Lenderman for the injunction after the group Hell On Earth announced plans to have a terminally ill person commit suicide during a show somewhere in the city tomorrow night. The judge had issued a temporary order Monday blocking the performance and any advertising for it.
“We think it’s the correct legal decision, and it’s also the right thing to do,” Mayor Rick Baker said afterward. “Using a suicide as part of a concert for purposes of entertainment value or for purposes of profiting is a sick concept.”
City officials said they never located Hell On Earth leader Billy Tourtelot to serve him with an order to appear in court, and no one showed up on his behalf for yesterday’s hearing.
Tourtelot, 33, the son of a St. Petersburg real estate agent, did not return messages seeking comment. He had said earlier the band will defy a city law passed Monday that makes it illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and to host, promote and sell tickets for such an event.
Tourtelot told The Associated Press that the suicide is intended to raise awareness about physician-assisted suicide, which he believes should be legal. He said “a select few people” will attend the show at an undisclosed site in St. Petersburg, and that it will be shown live on the band’s Web site. He has declined to disclose any details about the terminally ill person.
According to the order, Tourtelot has said that the performance and suicide parts of the Webcast could take place in two different locations within the city.
Violation of the city ordinance could bring up to 60 days in jail. Additionally, a state law against assisting in a suicide is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Baker said city police will be monitoring the Web site tomorrow. He acknowledged the whole thing could be a publicity stunt for a local band known for such onstage antics at chocolate syrup wrestling and grinding up rats in a blender.
“This type of antic can go on in any city in America,” he said. “But you’re going to define your character of your city by how you respond to it.”
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