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Rock band vows to defy new law with onstage, Web aided suicide

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. -- The leader of the rock band Hell on Earth said Monday that an onstage suicide will be conducted during a private St. Petersburg concert this weekend in defiance of a new city law designed to stop the act.

"The show will go on," Billy Tourtelot said. "It will be available on the Internet and it will be in the city limits of St. Petersburg."

Earlier Monday, the St. Petersburg city council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that makes it illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and to host, promote and sell tickets for such an event.

"While I still think it's a publicity stunt, we still couldn't sit idly by and let somebody lose their life," council member Bill Foster said.

Circuit Judge John C. Lenderman of St. Petersburg granted the city a temporary injunction against the band Monday, preventing them from advertising the show and allowing the suicide. The judge scheduled a hearing in the case Thursday.

The Tampa-based band, known for such outrageous onstage stunts as chocolate syrup wrestling and grinding up live rats in a blender, first created the furor by announcing earlier this month that the suicide would happen during a show at the State Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.

But the theater's owner promptly canceled the band's appearance, and another venue also turned away the event.

Now Tourtelot, 33, said the suicide show will be played before a "select few people" at an undisclosed location in St. Petersburg on Saturday and be shown live on the band's Web site. He would not disclose any details about the terminally ill person or say how the person planned to kill himself.

He said the point is to raise awareness that physician-assisted suicide should be legalized in Florida.

Tourtelot said he is not worried about the legal ramifications. Violating the new city ordinance is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A Florida law already makes it manslaughter, a felony, to assist in a suicide.

But Tourtelot insists the band is not assisting the act.

"This person will be doing this self-deliverance totally by themselves, on their own accord," he said.


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