John Tesh in 9/11 Poem Copyright Flap

05/08/2003 at 11:20 AM EDT

A Missouri housewife has slapped Christian musician and former "Entertainment Tonight" talking head John Tesh with a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit, charging that he took a 9/11 tribute that she wrote and included it on his Christmas album last year -- without giving her credit, reports the Smoking Gun Web site.

Stacey Randall, 29, asserts in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that Tesh, 56, did not seek permission to use her poem, titled "Met in the Stairwell," on his album "Christmas Worship." His version, slightly abridged and called "God in the Stairwell," runs nearly three minutes and is spoken with what the Smoking Gun terms "creepy haunted house organ" music.

"A few days after September 11, I was in bed, unable to sleep. I had a vision of the Lord in the stairwell of the World Trade Center, coming forward to comfort people," Randall, now pregnant with her third child, tells the Smoking Gun, adding that it took her all of seven minutes to compose the work, which she then posted on her family's Web site -- and copyrighted.

"The next morning," she explains, she "sent e-mails out to a few family members. Within a month or so, the poem had spread around the world."

As it ricocheted around the globe, Randall's poem -- which she copyrighted in January 2002 -- was often printed without her name attached, just attributed to "Anonymous."

Tesh has claimed in an interview that the poem came to his attention thanks to his wife, Connie Sellecca, who "suggested that I read it during one of my concerts. So one night, I started reading it from stage while I was playing piano, and it was a very emotional thing. The reaction from the audience was incredible, so I just kept playing it night after night."

Randall's attorney, David Moser, tells the Smoking Gun that Tesh offered some royalties to Randall, but he declined to pay her a $5,000 licensing fee (considered a paltry sum).

The Smoking Gun also notes that Tesh's CD and DVD (which also contain Randall's reputed words) have been copyrighted by Garden City Music, Tesh's music publishing arm. (Tesh grew up in Garden City, a Long Island, N.Y., suburb.)

Randall seeks unspecified damages and wants Tesh to cease and desist the distribution of any works containing her poem.

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