A Florida judge issued a temporary injunction on Thursday banning
the metal group Hell on Earth from performing their “suicide” show
within St. Petersburg city limits on Saturday. The move came after
the band’s leader, Billy Tourtelot, insisted that his group would
go ahead with its plans to have an unnamed terminally ill patient
commit suicide during Hell on Earth’s Saturday night show.
“[Governor] Jeb Bush himself is getting people to ban this show,
and he can’t legally do that,” Tourtelot told Rolling
Stone late last week. “This is about government officials
abusing their powers and violating our First Amendment rights.”
After losing bookings at two local clubs due to the uproar over
the stunt, Tourtelot said last week that Hell on Earth would Web
cast the show from an undisclosed location, while the suicide would
take place at a separate, also undisclosed, location.
Thursday’s ruling, which bars the band from performing or
advertising the show, came from Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge
John C. Lenderman at the request of St. Petersburg city officials,
according to Mayor Rick Baker. “The Attorney General has also just
weighed in and they believe this could also constitute assisted
suicide under a state statute, which would be a second degree
felony manslaughter charge with a fifteen-year prison sentence,”
Baker told Rolling Stone today.
Tourtelot was not present at Thursday’s hearing, and Baker said
authorities have not yet been able to track him down to serve him
with the injunction. Tourtelot said last week that he would not
abide by a recently passed city ordinance banning suicides staged
for commercial or entertainment purposes. Baker said the penalty
for violating that ordinance could be up to sixty days in jail and
a $500 fine, while violating the injunction would put Tourtelot in
contempt of court, which could have “more far reaching”
implications at the judge’s discretion.
Tourtelot said his band would not be selling tickets to the
show, but would invite a “select audience.” “This person will be
doing this themselves, with no physician on hand,” Tourtelot said,
denying that the stunt was equivalent to physician-assisted
suicide. “This person wants to make sure we don’t go to
Tourtelot, son of a prominent area real estate magnate, could
not be reached again for comment at press time. As of Friday
morning, the band’s Web site was not accessible.
“The predicament we’re in is that we don’t know if this is a
publicity stunt, and if it’s not, we’ll be too late to do
anything,” Baker said. “So we have to take them at their word and
build a legal structure that will subject them to criminal
penalties if they do this.” Baker said his office received a
hand-written note from the person who is allegedly going to commit
suicide, but that they could not locate or verify that person’s
Tourtelot has repeatedly told Rolling Stone that the
suicide is not a stunt or a gimmick, but will be an actual suicide
meant to bring attention to the right-to-die movement.