Tag Archives: lawsuit

Jury in New York City convicts fan of stalking Uma Thurman

NEW YORK (AP) – A former mental patient obsessed with Uma Thurman faces up to a year in jail after a jury convicted him Tuesday of stalking and harassing the actress with a barrage of frightening advances.

Jack Jordan, a 37-year-old out-of-work lifeguard and pool cleaner, showed no emotion as the jury forewoman said he was guilty of stalking and one count of aggravated harassment.

The balding, bespectacled Jordan was calm as court officers led him from the courtroom in handcuffs with an officer carrying the large, overstuffed backpack Jordan always brought to court. The judge ordered a psychiatric exam before Jordan’s next court date on June 2.

“I’ve learned some disturbing things about this defendant during this case,” said state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro. “I am going to remand him for a psychiatric exam.”

Defense lawyer George Vomvolakis said Jordan was disappointed with the verdict and that he will soon decide whether to appeal. He requested protective custody for Jordan, saying he faces “specific threats because he’s a stalker.”

“He was actually assaulted” in jail after his arrest, he said.

A Thurman spokesman said the actress had no comment on the verdict. Prosecutors also said they would not comment.

Despite the conviction, Jordan will not face much time behind bars. The most the judge can give him on the misdemeanor counts is one year, and Jordan can get time lopped off for good behavior and the six weeks he already served.

The judge can issue an order of protection that requires Jordan to stay away from Thurman.

The verdict comes after a weeklong trial that featured riveting testimony from Thurman, who told the jury she was “completely freaked out” by Jordan’s behavior. She called the whole experience “a nightmare.”

Prosecutors say Jordan had stalked the “Kill Bill” and “Pulp Fiction” star since 2005, when an intense crush that had been building since high school made him decide the two just had to be together. At one point, he sent a note that said, “My hands should be on your body at all times.”

He showed up on Thurman’s Greenwich Village doorstep and on the Manhattan set of her movie “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” He sent her bizarre cards and letters, at least 20 of them after he was committed to a Maryland mental facility.

Jordan testified in his own defense, saying Friday he now understands how Thurman could have been frightened by his attempts to see her, and by his comment that her two children didn’t exist, that they were “an illusion.”

“I was feeling distressed,” said Jordan. “I had this feeling of longing for Ms. Thurman and I was trying to explain it. I was not trying to scare her in any way.”

Thurman, 38, testified for three hours Thursday, captivating the jury with her story of how the stalking frightened her and made her fear for her children.

She testified about a card Jordan delivered to her movie trailer in lower Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. It bore a drawing of an open grave, a headstone and a man standing on the edge of a razor blade. A spiral of random words on the card referred to “chocolate, mouth, soft, kissing” and the remark about his hands being on her body.

Jordan said he developed a crush on Thurman in high school after seeing her in the 1988 Terry Gilliam movie “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” His feelings intensified after he saw her in the Quentin Tarantino-directed “Kill Bill” in 2003.

The son of a physicist and a homemaker, Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Chicago in 1994; he also has done most of the work for a master’s degree.

The prosecutor noted Jordan’s education and intelligence when she told jurors the defendant was trying to make them believe his pursuit of Thurman was naive and guileless when in fact, she said, it was subtly calculating and intimidating.

Jordan, one of eight children, lives with his parents in Gaithersburg, Md. He testified they had him committed to a mental facility in late 2005 after learning he was being investigated because of his obsession with Thurman.

After his release, Jordan started showing up repeatedly at Thurman’s house last year. When he was arrested on Oct. 5, 2007, he was living out of his car in Manhattan and working part-time as a lifeguard and pool cleaner.

Source: The Associated Press

Wesley Snipes to serve 3 years in prison for tax convictions

OCALA, Fla. (AP) – Wesley Snipes called on famous friends to vouch for him, highlighted his clean criminal record and even wrote the government $5 million in checks – all in an effort to convince a judge that his conviction on tax charges should cost him nothing more than home detention and some public service announcements.

None of it worked. The “Blade” actor is doing hard time.

Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday for failing to file tax returns, the maximum penalty – and a victory for prosecutors who sought to make an example of the action star.

Snipes’ lawyers had spent much of the day in court offering dozens of letters from family members, friends – even fellow actors Woody Harrelson and Denzel Washington – attesting to his good character. His attorneys recommended he be given home detention and ordered to make public service announcements because his three convictions were all misdemeanors and the actor had no previous criminal record.

But U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges said Snipes exhibited a “history of contempt over a period of time” for U.S. tax laws, and granted prosecutors the three-year sentence they requested – one year for each of Snipes’ convictions of willfully failing to file a tax return from 1999-2001.

“In my mind these are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanors,” Hodges said.

Snipes apologized while reading from a written statement for his “costly mistakes,” but never mentioned the word taxes.

“I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance,” Snipes said. He said his wealth and celebrity attracted “wolves and jackals like flies are attracted to meat.” He called himself “well-intentioned, but miseducated.”

Snipes surprised the court before Hodges handed down the sentence by offering the government three checks totaling $5 million in unpaid taxes over several years, money the government first denied but then accepted. Prosecutors called it “grandstanding” to avoid jail time, and a mere down payment on the actor’s still-undetermined multimillion dollar tax bill.

The action star of the “Blade” trilogy, “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Jungle Fever” and other films hasn’t filed a tax return since 1998, the government alleged. Snipes and the IRS will work in future civil proceedings to determine his full tax liability, plus interest and penalties.

Snipes was the highest-profile criminal tax target in years, and prosecutors called for a heavy sentence to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS. The government alleged Snipes made at least $13.8 million for the years in question and owed $2.7 million in back taxes.

Snipes was acquitted in February of five additional charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy. Co-defendants Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn were convicted on both those counts. Kahn, who refused to defend himself in court, was sentenced to 10 years, while Rosile received 54 months. Both will serve three years of supervised release. Snipes will serve one year of supervised release.

Snipes and Rosile remain free and will be notified when they are to surrender to authorities.

Kahn was the founder of American Rights Litigators, and a successor group, Guiding Light of God Ministries, that purported to help members legally avoid paying taxes. Rosile, a former accountant who lost his licenses in Ohio and Florida, prepared Snipes’ paperwork.

Snipes maintained in a years-long battle with the IRS he did not have to pay taxes, using fringe arguments common to “tax protesters” who say the government has no legal right to collect. After joining Kahn’s group, the government said Snipes instructed his employees to stop paying their own taxes and sought $11 million in 1996 and 1997 taxes he legally paid.

Prosecutors sought to justify the maximum sentence by raising those and other details from the IRS investigation, as well as a tax loss even for years in which Snipes was acquitted of failing to file a return. Such “relevant conduct” is allowed by law for a judge’s consideration at sentencing.

Criminal tax prosecutions are relatively rare – usually the cases are handled in civil court, where the government has a lower burden of proof. Prosecutors said Snipes’ case was important to send a message to would-be tax protesters not to test the government.

Snipes’ lawyers said he was no threat to society, and called four character witnesses Thursday, including television’s Judge Joe Brown, who incited applause from the gallery by suggesting Snipes was no different than “mega-corporate entities” that legally avoid taxes.

Hodges twice halted the proceedings to quiet the crowd, threatening to clear everyone out if they made another outburst.

Defense attorneys Carmen Hernandez and Daniel Meachum said Snipes was unfairly targeted for prosecution because he’s famous. Meachum called prosecutors “big game hunters,” selectively prosecuting the actor while Kahn’s 4,000 other clients remained free.

Hodges was not swayed.

“One of the main purposes which drives selective prosecution in tax cases is deterrence,” the judge said, while denying it had anything to do with his sentence. “In some instances, that means those of celebrity stand greater risk of prosecution. But there’s nothing unusual about it, nor is there anything unlawful about it. It’s the way the system works.”

Source: The Associated Press

Hells Angels founder sues HBO

HBO might have a biker-sized legal problem on its hands with its motorcycle-themed drama pilot “1%.”

Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger filed a lawsuit last week against the pay cable network, the production company behind the project and its writer/executive producer Michael Tolkin claiming that the concept and the script for the show were developed with his collaboration. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, contends that HBO, the White Mountain Co. and Tolkin cut him out of the project and violated many of his publicity rights when he demanded changes to protect his own brand.

“1%” originally was set at the Carefree, Ariz., chapter of the Death Rangers, one of the toughest motorcycle clubs in the country, and centered on Misfit (Donal Logue), a Silicon Valley member who is sent to the troubled chapter to bring it under control. The project was ordered to pilot in October.

The lawsuit comes as HBO is readying “1%” for production. Casting on the pilot was completed late last week with the recruitment of Abe Ben Rubi, Jason Matthew Smith, Kim Dickens and James LeGros in the last regular roles.

Chip Esten, M.C. Gainey, Jeff Fahey and Hans Howes were tapped as guest stars/potential recurring.

The actors had motorcycle training late last week, and production on the pilot is slated to begin Friday.

In the complaint, Barger says he first optioned his best-selling autobiography to 20th Century Fox for movie development. Fox then hired Tolkin (Robert Altman’s “The Player”) to write the script. Barger claims he also shared with Tolkin a series of novels he had been working on about a fictional motorcycle club. Together, the two pitched HBO on a motorcycle club-centered series, and HBO subsequently turned to Tolkin to create it.

However, after Barger objected to some of the elements in the pilot, HBO “refused to acknowledge the contributions or authorship” of Barger and didn’t seek permission to “use or publish the name, trademark, persona or likeness of Sonny Barger for any purpose,” the suit said.

Barger was given the option of serving as a consulting producer on the project but turned it down. There was also talk of his appearing in the pilot in the potentially recurring role of Chief, the oldest member of the Death Rangers, but the casting never materialized.

Among the objections Barger lists in the suit are “that some characters introduced by Tolkin too close resembled or depicted living persons (in particular a character named ‘Chief,’ which for decades has been a well-known nickname or alias for Sonny Barger), that some actual place names used in the script were too identifiably associated with Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels (such as the primary location being Carefree, AZ, which is the town adjacent to where Sonny Barger presently resides, and that the principal character has moved from Northern California, which is exactly what Sonny Barger did).”

The name of the Chief character, played by Howes, has been changed to Cap, the setting of the show has been moved to Apache Junction, Ariz., and Misfit now comes from Valhalla, Ore.

Barger, repped by attorney Fritz Clapp, wants the court to declare the “1% Script” as a joint work of Sonny Barger Prods. and Tolkin, enjoin Tolkin and HBO from selling or exhibiting the program, and award compensatory damages for exploiting Barger’s publicity rights.

This is the second pilot this season to become involved in legal trouble.

Last month, video game developer TimeGate Studios filed a lawsuit against ABC Studios over the title of “Section 8,” the studio’s drama project for ABC. Time Gate claimed trademark infringement as the gamemaker had been developing a video game by that name and has a trademark registration pending.

The two sides reached a settlement last week, with Disney agreeing not to use “Section 8” as a title for the series, which is now untitled.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Woody Allen sues over NY billboard

Woody Allen asked a federal court on Monday to strip a clothing company known for its racy ads featuring scantily clad models of at least $10 million for using his image on billboards and on the Internet.

In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the actor-director said he does not endorse commercial products or services in the United States, which makes the May 2007 American Apparel billboards in Hollywood and New York and Web site displays “especially egregious and damaging.”

The lawsuit said Allen was not contacted by the company and did not consent to the use of his image, which was taken from one of his movies.

American Apparel Inc., which is based in Los Angeles and operates worldwide, did not immediately reply to a telephone message seeking comment Monday.

The lawsuit complained of a billboard featuring a frame from “Annie Hall,” a film that won Allen a best director Oscar. The image showed Allen, 72, dressed as a Hasidic Jew with a long beard and black hat and Yiddish text meaning “the holy rebbe.” The words “American Apparel” also were on the billboard.

The billboard falsely implied that Allen sponsored, endorsed or was associated with American Apparel, said the lawsuit, which seeks at least $10 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages.

Allen’s lawsuit describes him as among the most influential figures in the history of American film and a man who has maintained strict control over the projects with which he is associated.

The lawsuit accuses American Apparel of “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image” and notes that the company on its Web site promotes itself as one known for “provocative photography.”

In a news release two weeks ago, American Apparel Chairman Dov Charney called 2007 the company’s most successful year and said the company planned to develop “into a pre-eminent global retail brand.”

As of February 2007, American Apparel had more than 6,700 employees and operated 184 retail stores in 13 countries, according to its latest earnings release.

Source: Business Week