DOCUMENT: Celebrity

"Sopranos" Beginning Controversy Continues

David Chase in court fight with consultant who wants piece of action

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"Sopranos" Beginning Controversy Continues

DECEMBER 11--David Chase, the creator of 'The Sopranos,' returns this week to New Jersey to testify in a federal case brought against him by a former judge who claims he helped create the HBO series and has never been compensated for his work.

Robert Baer's lawsuit against Chase, which was filed in May 2002, limps into a Trenton courthouse having been stripped of most of its key claims by federal Judge Joel Pisano. Still, Chase is expected to testify about the genesis of the Mafia series and its characters and, in the process, rebut Baer's claims that he played a central role in the show's creation (Chase acknowledges spending a few days in 1995 with Baer, a former municipal court judge, discussing mob matters and touring wiseguy hangouts).

Chase's testimony will likely mirror the account he gave in a comprehensive court certification, a copy of which you'll find here. In the document, Chase tells of his boyhood fascination with music and the Mafia, notes that he is 'of 100% Italian origin,' and reveals that his grandparents changed the family name from DeCesare. 'Growing up,' Chase stated, 'I was intrigued by the notion that some members of my own ethnic group were 'tough guys.''

Addtionally, he claimed, a 'dear friend' of his mother's was 'somehow close' to the mob crew headed by Ruggiero 'Richie the Boot' Boiardo, a Genovese crime family captain headquartered in Newark (which was to be home to the show's fictional Museum of Science and Trucking). Boiardo, who died in 1984 at age 93, would have surely been pleased to learn that Chase reported that the hit TV series was 'very loosely based' on his crew. The hoodlum frequently told associates that he believed that he was the model for Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather.' (12 pages)