’vegas Slogan' Ends In Hung Jury
After a week of testimony and two full days of deliberation, the trial that made headlines across the country ended in a hung jury. Daniel Hampton had been facing murder charges for the death of ad executive Harold Kellerman.
Mr. Hampton, 27, was accused of holding Mr. Kellerman hostage at his penthouse apartment and beating him repeatedly with an assortment of objects including a pair of novelty slippers. Kellerman, who was later discovered to have a pre-existing heart condition, died at Mercy General Hospital. He was 51.
Harold Kellerman is perhaps best known as the person who came up with the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” and that fact played a prominent role in the trial. Hampton, who previously had never had any contact with the victim, claimed he attacked the man specifically because of that catchphrase. He stated that although at one point it may have been slightly amusing, because “it was repeated so often and endlessly,” it had become a “blight on society, a horrific soul-crushing sentiment.” He went on to say that the slogan “had done more damage to the world than crack, organized religion, and Justin Timberlake combined.”
Hampton had pleaded not guilty by justifiable homicide.
During his sometimes rambling three days of testimony, Hampton claimed the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back occurred while he was watching a DVD of The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. At one point in the movie Toto turns to Miss Piggy (as Dorothy) and says “What happens in the Emerald City stays in the Emerald City.” Hampton said that caused him to be “infuriated, filled with an intense, overwhelming rage” and also to drop his nearly full bowl of Cocoa Puffs. When asked by his court-appointed lawyer why that particular exchange had set him off, Hampton replied “I love the Muppets. They shouldn’t be puppets for some gut-churning ad campaign. They shouldn’t be puppets for anyone. That’s when I knew something had to be done.”
It was later revealed that Hampton received Kellerman’s address from friend and sometimes business associate Jimbo Dawson. Mr. Dawson, whose legal first name is actually “Jimbo,” testifying for the prosecution in exchange for immunity on unrelated charges, said that he did in fact supply the defendant with the address but didn’t know what he wanted it for. He went on to say that he thought Hampton looked unstable on the night in question and that he had “the crazy eyes,” at which point Hampton jumped up and yelled “Not cool, man!” The judge’s pounding gavel and a stern look from the bailiff made him retake his seat.
Under the ruse of a pizza delivery, Hampton was able to gain access to Kellerman’s apartment. He claimed he had gone there only to get an apology. But when Kellerman refused and cited the numerous awards and honors he’d received for the Vegas ad campaign, Hampton said he “just lost it. Honestly most of the rest of that night is a blur. I think at one point I might’ve urinated on his Clio.” (Clio is an advertising award, not Mr. Kellerman’s wife). Using surveillance footage, police were able to identify Hampton and the next morning they found him at his apartment eating the pizza. “He was calm,” said arresting officer Peter Santos. “He even offered me and my partner a slice.”
It was Hampton’s impassioned speech that some say changed the outcome of the trial. After telling his lawyer that he wanted to give the closing argument (witnesses said the lawyer muttered “That’s cool, I get paid either way”), Hampton stood and addressed the twelve men and women of the jury. Here is an excerpt:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve all heard a lot of information over the past week, some of it valid, some of it not so much. But the one thing I want you to consider before you go into that room is this: What kind of effect did Harold Kellerman have on the world we live in? Think about it. How many of you have been at work and gone into the break room to refill your coffee or to get a candy bar from the vending machine and a few people are horsing around, playing a little grab-ass and someone inevitably says ‘Well, what happens in the break room, stays in the break room.’? Or you’re out at your favorite restaurant, trying to relax, maybe enjoying a nice cocktail or two and there’s laughter coming from the back and the waiter walks by and says ‘What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen’? Or maybe you’re doing some work on a house and Emilio and Oscar come out of the port-a-john with a cloud of smoke and someone says ‘Qu
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