Man sues Oprah over arrest for extortion


NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana man has filed a lawsuit against TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, claiming she and an attorney made false statements that led the FBI to arrest him on charges that he tried to extort her. Keifer Bonvillain, who had the charges dismissed, seeks damages of US$180 million from Winfrey, her attorney and the FBI in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. Bonvillain, of Houma, Louisiana, was arrested in December 2006 after he allegedly recorded telephone conversations with an employee of Winfrey’s production company and told a company associate he wanted to publish a book based on the recordings.

The FBI arrested Bonvillain when another company associate agreed to pay him US$1.5 million, wired him US$3,000 and arranged to meet him.

Federal officials agreed to dismiss the charges last year on the condition that Bonvillain perform 50 hours of community service, undergo drug testing and pay US$3,000 in restitution. Chip Babcock, a lawyer for Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, denied the allegations in Bonvillain’s suit.