Garth Ancier Calls for Legal Reforms After "False" Michael Egan Molestation Lawsuits
The TV executive was one of the high-profile defendants in a series of lawsuits filed by Egan last year in which the defendant alleged he'd been molested by a number of entertainment industry figures in Hawaii while he was still a teen.
Last year, television executive Garth Ancier was one of a number of entertainment industry figures, including director Bryan Singer, sued by Michael Egan. Egan claimed that he was molested by Singer, Ancier and others in Hawaii in 1999, when Egan was a teenager. Egan ultimately withdrew his cases and his former attorneys Jeff Herman and Mark Gallagher admitted that the claims against Ancier and fellow defendant David Neuman were "untrue and provably false."
Thursday, in an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Ancier uses his experience of being falsely accused and the ensuing effect on his health and reputation to call for reforms in the way courts handle sex-abuse cases so as to prevent others from suffering a similar fate.
Ancier argues that the widespread media coverage of Egan's allegations, made in a press conference in which the defendants were named, and subsequent acceptance of his claims instantly "vaporized" Ancier's "sterling reputation." After a 40-year career in broadcasting, including serving as a top executive at Fox Broadcasting, The WB and NBC, Ancier writes, "I was now unemployable, and advised to accept that I would never work as a media executive again. The personal impact too was devastating, and my health suffered as well."
The television executive begins by expressing support for statutes of limitations and argues that Hawaii's decision to eliminate its statute on teen sex abuse should not be copied elsewhere.
"I abhor sexual misconduct and have tremendous sympathy for victims and their families," Ancier writes. "But statutes of limitation exist for a reason: memories fade over time, witnesses die, rumors spread, documents are discarded and physical evidence decays or disappears. Recognizing the sensitive nature of these cases, many states have lengthened their statutes — but eliminating time limits altogether is unwise and can put defendants in an impossible position. Could you prove you weren't in Hawaii in August 1999? Probably not."
Ancier also calls for the following: All states should adopt California's requirement that defendants in sex-abuse cases be granted anonymity unless a judge finds merit in the case, which should be determined quickly, and press conferences or news releases about the case should be prohibited until that point. Also, attorneys should be required to contact the accused or his lawyers before filing suit.
Beyond that, Ancier wants lawyers who file sex-abuse cases to "be required to carry hefty malpractice insurance to ensure they can be held accountable for frivolous claims" and if a case is determined to be without merit, Ancier argues, plaintiffs' attorneys should have to pay defendants' legal fees. Also, he says, lying in civil suits — as Egan was scolded by a judge for doing — should result in criminal indictments for perjury.
In closing, Ancier writes that he hopes others can be spared the "scars" he now bears.
"A year ago, evil landed on my shoulder and dug in its claws," he writes. "As my nightmare ends, I'm finally free of its grip, but the scars on my psyche and good name will remain for the rest of my life. Perhaps with well-chosen reforms, it won't have to happen to anyone else."