Jury Finds Jello Biafra Liable For Mismanagement

Damages already exceed $100,000, with punitive penalties expected.

SAN FRANCISCO — A Superior Court jury slammed ex–Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra on Friday (May 19), finding him liable for nearly all charges brought against him by his former bandmates.

Damages stemming from charges that Biafra's label, Alternative Tentacles, didn't promote the group's back catalog, failed to pay royalties and other complaints totaled more than $100,000. The jury also is expected to award punitive damages.

In addition, the jury found that the collective Dead Kennedys — Biafra, guitarist East Bay Ray (born Ray Pepperell), drummer D.H. Peligro (Darren Henley) and bassist Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall) — own the band's catalog, which includes sarcastic punk classics such as "Kill the Poor" (RealAudio excerpt). Biafra argued that the songwriter for each track owned that work.

Along with that ruling, the jury said band decisions need not be unanimous but could be made by majority. The court heard testimony that Biafra had kept the song "Holiday in Cambodia" from being used in a Levi's khakis commercial. The other three have said that they want to take the band's catalog to another label.

Biafra countersued Ray, charging him with mismanaging the band's business partnership, Decay Music. In that case, the jury found Ray liable for fraud, ordering him to pay Biafra $5,000. It also found him liable for breach of fiduciary duty but awarded no damages.

The jury findings capped two weeks of testimony that saw the quintessential anti-authority group marshaling lawyers to duke out a two-year business feud. Offspring singer Dexter Holland testified Monday on Biafra's behalf.

Among other charges, the three ex-bandmates maintained that Biafra and Alternative Tentacles — the band-founded label now owned solely by Biafra 1986 — disguised a retroactive royalty adjustment of more than $76,000 and used it as a bargaining chip for negotiating the label's contract to license the group's music.

In his countersuit, Biafra claimed Ray had been taking a percentage of the band's royalties for managing the band's business, without his consent.

Biafra said he plans to appeal.