'Bumfights' Videomakers Get Clobbered

A survivor, Suci Ravika Wulan Sari, high-fives an Indonesian rescue worker as she was pulled out of a fallen building on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 in Padang, Indonesia, after being trapped there since Wednesday's earthquake. Two days after a 7.6-magnitude quake toppled thousands of buildings on Sumatra island, stricken residents in a district north of the hard-hit city of Padang had yet to receive help. AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

In June, CBS reported on homeless men - some addicted to drugs or mentally ill - who were paid to fight, hurt themselves and perform dangerous stunts on videotape.

The tape's producers have made millions.

"This is a craze, everyone loves it around the world," Tye Beeson, one of the show's producers, told CBS last year. "We're sending things to Istanbul, Turkey to Tokyo to all over Europe."

They bought the rights to most of the material on the hot-selling shock video from four teen-age filmmakers.

Now, as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, the high school friends, who say they have been filming the plight of the homeless in San Diego for years, are now off the streets and in the spotlight themselves -- charged by the district attorney with assault and conspiracy.

"The evidence will show, through witnesses, that individuals were paid with alcohol, money and housing to assault each other," says San Diego deputy district attorney Curtis Ross.

And the tape does show people being paid -- at least some of the time.

In June, the tape's producers admitted to CBS News most scenes filmed in Las Vegas were staged. But investigators say the incidents shot in San Diego were not fake and resulted in real injuries.

So real that Rufus Hannah, a homeless man used in many of the staged fights, was hurt so badly he had to make several trips to a San Diego Emergency Room.

Hospital social worker Beverly Sailors, who talked exclusively with CBS News, was shocked by what she saw and heard.

"He couldn't stand up when I saw him," she says. "I said, 'Why are you fighting?' And he said, 'Because these guys give us money to fight and sometimes they give us alcohol to fight and they film it.'"

The filmmakers are accused of paying for a fight, which ended when one homeless man broke his leg.

According to Sailors, the teenagers were well aware Hannah was also getting hurt while filming the stunts and fights.

"He told me that they would take him to the motel to rest there until he healed up," says Sailors.

Until the next fight.

"If he felt he needed to eat or wanted alcohol he would call the number and say he was ready and they would come and get him," says Sailors.

After police began investigating, the homeless men say they were promised thousands of dollars if they stayed silent - something the lawyer's representing the teens deny.

"The bottom line is that money was never given to encourage or solicit anyone to, number one, engage in criminal activity or after to leave town and not talk to authorities about it,'' said defense attorney Jan Ronis.

The teens face a maximum of seven years in jail if convicted. As for the film's producers and distributors, they live in Las Vegas. And so far, prosecutors there have declined to press charges.
  • Jaime Holguin

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