Originally created 03/18/98

Libel trial of former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly begins



CONCORD, N.H. -- A lawyer charged Tuesday that Jim Kelly damaged the career of A.J. Faigin when the former Buffalo Bills quarterback wrote that the sports agent mishandled his money.

Kelly's libel trial began in U.S. District Court on Tuesday with Faigin's lawyer saying Kelly knew when he wrote his book, Armed and Dangerous, that the claim was false.

Faigin, of Laguna Miguel, Calif., is suing Kelly for an undisclosed amount of money, but has said he lost more than $1 million in business because of the book. The case is being heard in Concord because New Hampshire gives people a longer time to file libel suits than most other states.

Faigin's lawyer, Alan Mandel of Chicago, said Kelly defamed Faigin in his book, making it even harder for him to compete with people who don't hesitate to cheat to make money.

Kelly's lawyer, Steve Gordon of Concord, said Kelly's statements are not libelous for two reasons -- Kelly believed what he wrote and Faigin knew about the alleged mismanagement of his money.

Gordon said Faigin billed Kelly for investing his money, as well as negotiating his contracts, and misled him in his financial affairs. He said Faigin double-billed Kelly and knew Kelly's money was being mismanaged.

In his book, Kelly wrote that his brother, Danny, and two friends alerted Kelly about the way Faigin was handling his money.

Kelly's relationship with Faigin turned sour after Faigin landed Kelly a multimillion dollar contract in 1983 with the Houston Gamblers of the now-defunct United States Football League, and a $3.5 million, five-year contract with the Bills in 1986 that included a $1 million signing bonus. At the time, it was the richest contract in NFL history.

Kelly sued Faigin in 1989, claiming, among other things, breach of fiduciary duties. Part of the suit was settled in arbitration, which led to a $700,000 payment to Kelly from two brokerage firms for improper investments. Faigin said he handled contract negotiations, not investments, and was not forced to pay damages.

Kelly voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit five years later and Faigin was eventually awarded $11,000 from Kelly when the court ruled the quarterback had filed a frivolous lawsuit against Faigin.

But in his opening remarks, Mandel pointed to several statements Kelly made under oath in other lawsuits in which he said Faigin did a good job and was involved only in contracts.

Claiming Faigin was never fired, Mandel said Kelly tried to ruin Faigin's reputation because he was angry Faigin didn't help him with a different lawsuit.

Kelly, who retired last year, directed the Bills to four straight Super Bowl berths, but the team lost all four.

Kelly is fifth in career passing efficiency, ninth in passing yards (35,467) and 12th in touchdown passes (237).