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Ex-Record Promoter’s Murder Trial Starts

September 23, 2003 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A former record promoter accused in the death of a country music magazine employee went on trial Tuesday, with prosecutors saying the victim was gunned down on Nashville’s Music Row over a chart-fixing scheme at the magazine.

Richard D’Antonio, 56, was arrested last year and charged with first-degree murder in the 1989 slaying of Kevin Hughes, 23, who worked for the now-defunct magazine Cash Box. Hughes’ job involved tracking airplay of songs on radio stations, which he used to help determine chart position.

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that Hughes was murdered because he was trying to reform a crooked business in which artists could bribe their way onto the charts. D’Antonio’s defense said the evidence doesn’t bear out the prosecution’s theory.

D’Antonio, a Las Vegas pit boss, is a former record promoter who worked with Hughes at Cash Box. D’Antonio also was an associate of record promoter Chuck Dixon, whose clients frequently were listed on the Cash Box chart.

Sharon Pennington, a friend of Hughes, testified that the magazine was nicknamed ``Chuck Box,″ in reference to Dixon, who died in 2001.

``It was common knowledge that Chuck controlled that chart,″ said Pennington, referring to a chart Cash Box devoted to independent-label artists.

Pennington said Hughes ``was making a real earnest attempt to make it a legitimate chart.″

Back in the late ’80s, music charts were compiled by hand rather than by computer _ making it easier to falsify the results.

The masked gunman who killed Hughes outside a recording studio also wounded country singer Sammy Sadler, who testified that he had songs on the chart without performing or selling any of his records. D’Antonio is charged with attempted murder in the Sadler shooting.

Robert Douglas Metzgar, a producer for independent artists at the time of the killing, came forward in 2000 and testified under an immunity deal with prosecutors.

He said that during a meeting with Dixon about paying $15,000 to place two songs on the chart, he mentioned concerns that ``there were rumors that Kevin was going to go to the media and expose this chart-fixing scheme that was going on at Cash Box.″

Metzgar said D’Antonio was in the room when Dixon replied, ``I will handle Kevin Hughes, and if I can’t handle him, he’ll be gone.″

D’Antonio’s lawyers tried to discredit Metzgar, saying he continued to work with Dixon for at least five years after Hughes’ death.