Non-Silent Treatment

Embattled AIDS doc says hes the target of a conspiracy he refuses to describe

When pressed about the nature of the letter—which turns out to be a settlement offer from Lampel—Kooshian responded, "I would not characterize it as an offer. It was something stronger than an offer."

Kooshian attorney Eric Davis was more specific. "It looks to me like they [Opinion and Lampel] are just trying to blackmail somebody out of money," he said.

Though he laughed when told about Davis' characterization, Lampel said he was not amused. He also declined to release the May 25 letter, describing it as a confidential communication to Kooshian about the doctor's alleged wrongdoing.

"The letter they are talking about was a standard pretrial demand letter that you'd see in almost any civil case," said Lampel. "I tried to get an appropriate settlement for my client and to encourage Dr. Kooshian to clean up his atrocious medical act. It certainly was not blackmail. I can assure you that crimes definitely have been committed in this case, but none of them have been committed by me or Virgil."

Kooshian insisted his refusal to accept Lampel's May settlement proposal demonstrates his innocence.

"I had the opportunity to save myself the embarrassment this has caused," he said. "But I elected not to do it."

Lampel remembers the negotiations quite differently. The two sides met for hours, he says, but then Lampel's deadline passed and Opinion filed his complaint. Kooshian never rejected the settlement, Lampel asserts. "I think he seriously believed this was going to go away," he said.

On Aug. 12, Kooshian responded to my calls and e-mail message from three days earlier. The doctor was upset because he believed I had ignored his tip about investigating Opinion and the May 25 letter.

"I gave you a piece of information that could have set the record straight and made it apparent to you what was behind this stream of events," he wrote in an e-mail. "And you chose to ignore it. . . . What is left is for a more responsible journalist to be interested in the truth and print the truth!"

Kooshian—the doctor so adamant about getting dirt printed on his ex-nurse and chief accuser—then did something I've come to expect from him: he contradicted himself.

"I don't intend," he wrote, "for this to play out in the press."

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