Ac­cused re­ceive lawyers’ apol­ogy

Two at­tor­neys reach a seven-fig­ure deal with Hol­ly­wood ex­ecs they had pur­sued on sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Abby Sewell, Daniel Miller and Ryan Faugh­n­der

The al­le­ga­tions un­set­tled Hol­ly­wood: teenage boys in­vited to pool par­ties at an En­cino man­sion where they were of­fered drugs and drink, with the tacit un­der­stand­ing that they would be ex­pected to have sex with older men in at­ten­dance, most work­ing in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

The claims by for­mer child ac­tor and model Michael Egan spawned a flurry of head­lines last year, but within a few months his lawyers dropped him as a client.

Now they’ve gone fur­ther — pay­ing a set­tle­ment of at least $1 mil­lion and tak­ing the un­usual step of is­su­ing for­mal apolo­gies to two of the ac­cused, tele­vi­sion pro­ducer Garth Ancier and

for­mer Walt Dis­ney Co. ex­ec­u­tive David Neu­man.

“Based on what I know now, I be­lieve that I par­tic­i­pated in mak­ing what I now know to be un­true and prob­a­bly false al­le­ga­tions against you,” Florida-based at­tor­ney Jef­frey Her­man wrote in a let­ter to Ancier and Neu­man, copies of which the pair’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives pro­vided Sun­day. “Had I known what I learned af­ter fil­ing the law­suits, I would never have filed th­ese claims against you.”

Her­man said he dropped Egan as a client two months af­ter fil­ing the com­plaints and that he had “re­solved this mat­ter with com­pen­sa­tion.”

In a sep­a­rate apol­ogy, at­tor­ney Mark Gal­lagher of Hawaii wrote: “Un­for­tu­nately, I now do not be­lieve that the al­le­ga­tions in the law­suit were true and ac­cu­rate. I deeply re­gret the un­jus­ti­fied pain, suf­fer­ing and sig­nif­i­cant dam­age the law­suit and pub­lic­ity has caused Mr. Ancier, and his fam­ily, friends and col­leagues.”

The at­tor­neys’ set­tle­ment was “in the seven fig­ures,” mak­ing it at least $1 mil­lion, Ancier’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives said.

“I guess the moral for lawyers is, don’t al­ways be­lieve your clients,” said Loyola Law School pro­fes­sor Lau­rie Leven­son. “This is def­i­nitely a cau­tion­ary tale that I will share with my stu­dents.”

Egan dropped the suits against Ancier and Neu­man in June 2014. He had also filed — and later dropped — suits against pro­ducer Gary God­dard and “X-Men” direc­tor Bryan Singer.

Ancier and Neu­man filed their own suits ac­cus­ing Egan, Her­man and Gal­lagher of ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion. The apolo­gies to the men were is­sued as a set­tle­ment con­di­tion. God­dard and Singer did not re­ceive sim­i­lar apolo­gies be­cause they had not pur­sued suits against Egan and the at­tor­neys.

Egan, 33, could not be reached for com­ment. Ear­lier this year, he pleaded guilty to fraud in an un­re­lated fed­eral case in North Carolina. He was ac­cused of us­ing false in­for­ma­tion to en­tice peo­ple to in­vest in var­i­ous projects, and then tak­ing their money for his per­sonal use.

Egan’s civil suits against the four Hol­ly­wood fig­ures were filed in Hawaii fed­eral court in April 2014. He claimed he was forced into a sex ring with older men as a teenage boy in the late 1990s, al­leg­ing some of the abuse oc­curred on a pri­vate es­tate on Oahu.

In fil­ing the law­suits, his at­tor­neys took ad­van­tage of a 2012 Hawaii law that opened a two-year win­dow for al­leged vic­tims of child sex abuse to file civil charges even if the statute of lim­i­ta­tions had ex­pired.

At the time, ad­vo­cates for chil­dren in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try said a Hol­ly­wood party cul­ture ex­ploit­ing chil­dren does ex­ists.

But ques­tions al­most im­me­di­ately arose about Egan’s mo­tives. Legal an­a­lysts ques­tioned why he waited so long to sue Ancier, Neu­man, God­dard and Singer for events that al­legedly hap­pened about 15 years ago.

There was fur­ther skep­ti­cism: In 2000, Egan and two other plain­tiffs filed a law­suit against three men who they al­leged had abused them at the same En­cino es­tate, but that case didn’t men­tion Singer, Ancier, Neu­man or God­dard. The plain­tiffs won a $4.5-mil­lion judg­ment in the case.

Egan said the long gap be­tween the al­leged abuse and his 2014 law­suits was a re­sult of be­ing trau­ma­tized, and only af­ter years of ther­apy did he de­cide to file suit.

The de­fen­dants said it was a shake­down, a view that also found some sup­port in Hol­ly­wood.

Pro­ducer Gavin Polone, whose cred­its in­clude HBO’s “Curb Your En­thu­si­asm,” was one of those who were skep­ti­cal of Egan’s claims, at the time call­ing it “per­se­cu­tion against rich gay peo­ple.” Reached Sun­day, Polone said the ac­cused were “smeared” be­cause they were gay.

“If the fact pat­tern had been the same but the ac­cused were straight, no­body would ever have heard any­thing about this,” Polone said. “The whole thing is shame­ful, and I com­mend Garth and David for not re­lent­ing and de­mand­ing that th­ese un­scrupu­lous plain- tiff ’s lawyers take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions.”

John Nock­leby, direc­tor of Loyola’s Civil Jus­tice Pro­gram, noted that it is rare for at­tor­neys to is­sue for­mal apolo­gies.

“Let­ters like th­ese are un­usual; a lawyer doesn’t want to have public ac­knowl­edg­ment that he or she brought a law­suit that was trumpedup from the very be­gin­ning, and he or she bought into it,” he said. “It is pro­fes­sion­ally em­bar­rass­ing.”

Ancier said in a state­ment that the apolo­gies of­fer fi­nal proof “that a con­victed scam artist’s claims about me were en­tirely made up.”

“I said on day one this was all ab­so­lutely false and I’m cer­tainly pleased that’s now been ad­mit­ted by the lawyers re­spon­si­ble for trans­form­ing ab­surd fab­ri­ca­tions into a real-life night­mare for me,” he wrote.

Neu­man said in a sep­a­rate state­ment that the law­suit against him “was com­pletely fraud­u­lent and filled with whole-cloth lies.”

Nock­leby and Leven­son weren’t sur­prised that the set­tle­ment was for at least $1 mil­lion.

“Some lies are very costly, es­pe­cially when you’re destroying peo­ple’s rep­u­ta­tions,” Leven­son said.

Her­man and Gal­lagher could not be reached for com­ment. Legal ex­perts said it is pos­si­ble that the set­tle­ment would be paid from the at­tor­neys’ legal mal­prac­tice in­sur­ance poli­cies.

Egan’s rocky re­la­tion­ship with his at­tor­neys echoes an ex­pe­ri­ence he had with an­other lawyer in Las Ve­gas a decade ago.

In the early 2000s, Egan teamed up with his brother, Ja­son Egan, to start a Las Ve­gas pro­duc­tion com­pany that would stage haunt­ed­house at­trac­tions. But in a 2006 law­suit filed by Michael Egan in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Ne­vada, Egan al­leged that his brother ul­ti­mately ex­cluded him from the busi­ness, took over his in­ter­est in the com­pany and de­clined to share prof­its.

One of Michael Egan’s at- tor­neys in the mat­ter, Scott Can­tor, told The Times last year that his for­mer client ini­tially came off as a “very in­tel­li­gent, gre­gar­i­ous in­di­vid­ual.”

But as the case pro­ceeded, “his com­mu­ni­ca­tions to us about his per­cep­tions just didn’t seem to match what I un­der­stood the re­al­ity to be,” Can­tor said. “I was du­bi­ous as to where he was com­ing from at that time.”

The case was dis­missed in 2008. Ja­son Egan and Can­tor did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Anne Cu­sack Los An­ge­les Times

MICHAEL EGAN, cen­ter, hugs his mother, Bon­nie Mound, as at­tor­ney Jef­frey Her­man an­nounces law­suits against four Hol­ly­wood ex­ec­u­tives in April 2014.

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