Topeka Fred Thompson, the actor, lawyer and former U.S. senator who is creating a buzz in the Republican Party presidential race, has a link to a Kansas case involving well-recognized names.
Thompson represented Marcia Tomson Stingley, who in the 1980s sued then-Attorney General Bob Stephan for sexual harassment.
Stingley, however, was first represented by Margie Phelps, daughter of the Rev. Fred Phelps and a member of the family that has become known throughout the nation for picketing at soldiers' funerals.
The family, including Margie Phelps, carry signs such as "Thank God for dead soldiers," claiming that soldiers' deaths are part of God's punishment for toleration of homosexuality in the United States.
In the first lawsuit, Stingley accused Stephan of making sexual advances. Stephan denied the allegations but agreed in March 1985 to settle the lawsuit for $24,000 and he would help her get another job in California.
But the settlement required that the terms be kept secret. However, later in 1985, while Stephan considered a run for governor, a friend of Stephan's divulged the settlement terms to the media.
Stingley sued for breach of contract and Margie Phelps became a witness in the case. She could not represent Stingley.
Phelps said that at that time she had just read the book "Marie," which was about a case Thompson handled in Tennessee about political corruption that received national attention and was later made into a movie, in which Thompson played himself.
"It had stuck with me, the way the lawyer handled the case," Phelps said.
She said she thought it would be difficult to find an attorney in Kansas willing to take a case against the state attorney general, so she contacted Thompson.
"He came to Kansas with a couple of other guys," she said.
Thompson's spokesman, Mark Corallo, said Thompson took the case simply to help Stingley.
"The woman was left without counsel," Corallo said.
He said Thompson had no knowledge of Phelps' beliefs.
Phelps said she spoke with Thompson several times, but not about religion matters.
"I'm quite confident he would've completely disagreed with everything about my faith," she said.
And she said that when Thompson took the case, that time period preceded the Phelps' "public ministry" of picketing, which started with anti-gay demonstrations, including those at funerals of victims of AIDS.
The second case went to trial, and a federal court awarded $200,000 to Stingley. But Stephan filed for bankruptcy.
"The firm didn't make a dime off the case," Corallo said.
Phelps said Thompson did a good job in the case. "He's an excellent trial lawyer in my opinion," she said.
But she said she won't vote for him if he becomes the Republican nominee.
"I don't see a single person on the landscape that I would remotely consider voting for," she said.