ROTHERDAM, NY -- A woman severely burned as a child will receive $1 million to settle a lawsuit against a New York radio station and two disc jockeys who repeatedly ridiculed her scarred face during a four-hour broadcast. J.R. Gach was accused by the 25-year-old burn victim, Athena Andrikopoulis, of Rotherdam, New York of making fun of her appearance during his radio show.
Andrikopoulis has undergone more than 50 surgeries since she was severely burned on a stove when she was only 3 years old. However, she said she never suffered so much emotionally as she has from the cruel and relentless mocking of a radio shock jock.
"So the chick that's waiting on him obviously had some hideous burns on her face. My guess is she got in a fight with her boyfriend and he threw some steaming hot coffee in her face," Gach said in a 2006 broadcast.
This tirade of name calling and mockery occurred on the J.R. morning show of Feb. 15, 2006. Shawn Bolts, Gach's radio side kick, had eaten at the Redwood Diner in Rotterdam the night before, where Andrikopoulis is a hostess at the family business.
"When I first heard about it, I couldn't control my emotions. I started crying hysterically and I was screaming and I couldn't control myself," she said.
Andrikopoulis says it wasn't until she herself heard a recording of the radio show that she decided to pursue a lawsuit against the two DJs and the then parent company of WRCZ radio, Galaxy Communications.
"Her face was just a wreck. Like she had a fire on her face and someone put it out with a wire brush," Gach said during the broadcast.
Andrikopoulis says she lost 13 pounds in the emotional ordeal and her life changed for the worse.
"Because they wanted ratings, DJs wanted to use my scars as a joke on the radio, afterwards I became emotionally scarred," she said.
The jury heard about three days of testimony, but because it was settled before the trial ended they never came to a verdict. At least one juror was moved by what he heard.
"Hearing what we heard, personally, it was disgusting. There was no need for it. And you really wonder what goes through people's minds," juror Tim Lange said.
As for Andrikopoulis, she says being awarded the $1 million helps ease her pain, but she says she really did this so no one else will have to suffer what she did.
"I didn't want to roll over. I wanted justice for this," she said.
Andrikopoulis turns 26 years old Friday. She says it will be a special birthday.
Her attorneys, Mike Mackey and Dan Centi, say they thought this would be a very tough case until they heard the tapes. They also say this case is an unprecedented warning to other shock jocks that says you can't use extreme conduct against an innocent individual and try to hide under freedom of speech.
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