By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
New York CityState Attorney General Eliot Spitzer appears to be gearing up for a look into the concerns of civil rights groups over a popular video game instructing players to "kill the Haitians."
In Vice City: Grand Theft Auto, a member of an organized-crime group advances in the underworld through commission of violent acts. Originally developed by Rockstar Games, a wholly owned subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.both companies are based in New York Citythe game has sold over 11 million copies.
Vice City has met with controversy before. According to a report by the Associated Press, lawsuits initially filed in Florida state courts last month by Haitian interest groups were allowed to be moved to federal court at the request of Rockstar's attorneys. The groups now plan to re-file in Florida's state courts. The AP reported that Rockstar representatives agreed to remove the offending language from future versions of the game.
In a press conference outside of the attorney general's Manhattan office, the Hatians' lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, told a group of shivering reporters, "Vice City violates state civil rights statutes, and that investigation will be conducted by the attorney general's office." Rubenstein's clients have waited over a month for a response from Attorney General John Ashcroft's civil rights division at the Justice Department, but he said Mr. Spitzer's office "immediately responded to our request for a meeting, met with us today, and will be conducting an investigation."
Darren Dopp, spokesperson for Mr. Spitzer, declined to characterize the inquiry as an investigation, but said, "We are looking into it at Sanford Rubenstein's request, particularly since the description was a source of concern."
Mr. Spitzer, who is widely considered to be positioning himself for a gubernatorial campaign, has taken on several high-profile issues in recent years. He has pursued Wall Street investment firms for alleged conflicts of interest and unfair trading practices, and commissioned the famous "Stop and Frisk" reports used to document racial profiling that occurred under former mayor Rudy Giuliani.