Veteran mediator Jerry Roscoe was on a relaxing river cruise from Budapest to Bucharest celebrating his 70th birthday on Sunday when he received an urgent phone call.
The voice on the other end asked Roscoe if he would serve as an eleventh-hour mediator in the massive defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News. The start of the trial was hours away, and Dominion planned to force Rupert Murdoch and Tucker Carlson onto the witness stand soon after opening statements, according to people familiar with the matter.
As Roscoe sailed aboard the cruise ship, he didn’t hesitate to accept the unexpected task of brokering a deal to avoid the media law trial of the century.
“I said yes,” Roscoe told CNN on Wednesday, recalling advice his father gave him at the age of 16 about accepting work assignments while on vacation. “My dad told me that if someone needs you, they call you, and if they need you, you go.”
The lead trial attorneys – Justin Nelson for Dominion and Dan Webb for Fox – had negotiated for a settlement over the weekend before Roscoe was brought in, but they were “really far apart” and no deal materialized, one of the people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Over the next day, Roscoe familiarized himself with the historic defamation case, poring over thousands of pages of documents. Then there was intensive “shuttle diplomacy,” with Roscoe oscillating between the two sides, before eventual phone calls and Zoom meetings with everyone together.
Late on Sunday night, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis was notified that the parties hired Roscoe, a mediator at JAMS. Davis soon announced a surprise one-day delay to the trial’s commencement to give the mediator a shot at clinching a deal – though he didn’t seem interested in granting any additional delays beyond that.
On Monday, the frantic negotiations got underway.
In the whirlwind 24 hours that followed, the talks culminated in a historic deal, which was hammered out shortly after 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, averting what would have been a high-wattage trial that would have forced the right-wing talk network to reckon further with the election lies it aired in the wake of the 2020 presidential contest.
“It went down to the wire,” Roscoe acknowledged to CNN.
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