NEW YORK – The Sopranos will go on trial tomorrow in Chicago.
That's when Judge Robert Seibel of Cook County Circuit Court will decide the fate of a lawsuit brought last April by a group of Italian-American Chicagoans against HBO and the producers of the hit Mafia series.
In their suit, the group — the American Italian Defense Association (AIDA) — accuses The Sopranos of violating an obscure section of Illinois state law, a so-called "individual dignity" clause, that calls for the condemnation of "communications that portray criminality, depravity or lack of virtue in . . . a group of persons by reason of or by reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation."
Tomorrow, Seibel is expected to rule on a motion filed by HBO to dismiss the suit, which the pay-cable channel says infringes on its First Amendment rights.
The network argues also that the "individual dignity" clause does not apply to The Sopranos.
For Enrico Mirabelli, the Chicago attorney who will represent AIDA in court tomorrow, the outcome of the case will determine if The Sopranos, with its depiction of Italian-Americans involved in ruthless criminal activity as part of the North Jersey mob, is offensive to Italian-Americans.
Mirabelli says his group is not looking to block production of the show, nor are they seeking monetary damages.
He says they merely want the judge to agree to apply the clause to The Sopranos and then condemn the show, in accordance with the law. Illinois is the only state in the country whose constitution contains an individual-dignity clause, Mirabelli said, explaining why the suit has been brought in Illinois.