Hollywood Sex Abuse Accuser's Lawyers Admit Filing "Untrue and Provably False" Claims
Lawyers for accuser Michael Egan paid Garth Ancier and David Neuman a seven-figure settlement and apologized for damage done.
Over a year after teen sex abuse claims against Bryan Singer and three others rocked Hollywood and lit up the Internet, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the then-lawyers for accuser Michael Egan have admitted to two of the formerly accused, Garth Ancier and David Neuman, that the allegations against them were untrue.
In connection with signed admissions, lawyers Jeff Herman of Florida and Mark Gallagher of Hawaii paid what Ancier's representatives described as a "seven-figure" settlement to the two men, whom the lawyers now admit were wrongly accused. Both lawyers also apologized for the damage done by the lawsuits, which Herman had announced at a standing-room-only press conference in April 2014 in Los Angeles where Egan sat beside his tearful mother, Bonnie Mound.
That press conference, which focused on Ancier, Neuman and Gary Goddard, was a sequel to one held the week prior, at which Herman presented the suit against Singer. The back-to-back high-profile media events generated a firestorm of publicity, which Herman used in an attempt to drum up additional clients. Indeed, correspondence between Herman and Gallagher listed additional Hollywood gay men they intended to target.
"I participated in making what I now know to be untrue and provably false allegations against you," said Herman in letters dated June 5, 2015, and addressed to Ancier and Neuman. "I have resolved this matter with compensation to you. I am hopeful that you can recover fully."
Gallagher said in two June 4, 2015, letters, "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/Mr. Neuman], and his family, friends, and colleagues."
Notwithstanding the "I now know" language, Egan's cases from the start were contradicted by sworn statements he made in a deposition in a similar decade-old legal case he had brought against three other men — a case that Herman acknowledged being aware of. Whether Herman didn't read the deposition, or else discounted it, is unknown. He, Gallagher and Egan did not respond to a request for comment, while Egan's current counsel declined to comment.
Egan, for his part, has admitted nothing, but at a hearing on the countersuit he was scolded by a federal judge for lying in court, and he later pled guilty in connection with unrelated fraud charges in which the FBI said he lied and forged documents over a five-year period. His cases against the four men began to collapse in May 2014, just a month after they were filed, when his prior contradictory statements came to light. He subsequently withdrew the suits.
There were no apologies to Singer or Goddard, as neither of them filed countersuits. However, Egan's cases against all four were framed in virtually identical, cookie-cutter complaints and centered on the same purported events, timeframes, locations and purported trip(s) to Hawaii. All four men emphatically denied the allegations.
In addition, a new documentary film on Hollywood teen sex abuse that previously named all four men in connection with the 2014 suits was edited to remove those references. The film, director Amy Berg's An Open Secret, continues to feature Egan, but in relation to the allegations in the older complaint against three other men. Meanwhile, Berg herself is connected to other lawyers who worked for Egan — Irvine's Manly Stewart & Finaldi — though she has denied knowing anything about the 2014 lawsuits despite including them, and footage of one of Egan's press conferences, in an earlier, public cut of the movie.
Lost in all of the white-hot media coverage of the 2014 suits — and the attendant blog comments, many homophobic — was the fact that Herman never presented any evidence to the press corps or the court to substantiate Egan's claims, other than Egan's say-so and a sealed declaration from a psychologist who spoke with him. In contrast, the men accused presented witness statements and hundreds of pages of documents to show that they weren't in Hawaii at the time alleged, 15 years earlier.
The 2014 suits were only possible because of Hawaii's open-ended statute of limitations for such cases and, unlike Hollywood figures who had secretaries who knew their whereabouts and business managers storing documents, most ordinary citizens confronted with a sex abuse suit might be hard-pressed to prove they weren't in Hawaii a decade and a half ago.
Effect of the Apologies
Whether the Herman and Gallagher apologies to Ancier and Neuman can wholly repair the damage done to the latter's reputations is unclear.
"The lawyers who brought this false claim are now making a significant financial payment as part of their apology for bringing a case they acknowledge never had any merit, finally proving that a convicted scam artist's claims about me were entirely made up," said Ancier in a statement. "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."
"A year ago, a press conference was held announcing a lawsuit against me that was completely fraudulent and filled with whole cloth lies," said Neuman in a statement, "I would like to thank my family, friends, and colleagues for their steadfast support through this. You have been amazing. You knew that these charges were all lies, and your support was unwavering. I thank you all with all of my heart."
Neuman also thanked his attorneys, Patty Glaser and Andy Baum of Glaser Weil.
Ancier, who's represented by Louise Ann Fernandez and Anthony Pacheco of Jeffer Mangels, is continuing his case against Egan.
Representatives for Singer didn't respond to a request to comment, and Goddard's counsel declined to do so.
Egan's and Herman's Credibility Issues
Last October, Egan was scolded by the federal judge in the Ancier countersuit, J. Michael Seabright, for lying to the judge in response to direct questions about who was writing his legal papers. It turned out that the papers were being ghostwritten by the Manly Stewart & Finaldi law firm which, like Herman and to some extent Gallagher, specializes in child sexual abuse cases.
Two months later, Egan was indicted on federal wire fraud and securities fraud charges in a 2007-12 scheme in which authorities say he lied and forged documents in order to ensnare investors. According to a pleading filed by Ancier, Egan bragged to a witness that "if all else failed," he could falsely accuse prominent Hollywood gay men in order to extract money. Egan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and awaits sentencing.
Egan has been represented by a criminal lawyer since at least 2012, suggesting that Egan may have known federal charges were in the offing even as he was bringing suit against Singer, Goddard, Ancier and Neuman.
Court documents in his criminal case disclose that the FBI has collected over 121,000 pages of evidence on Egan.
Vince Finaldi, a name partner in the Manly Stewart & Finaldi firm, previously told THR that Egan's indictment on charges of lying and forgery actually bolstered his credibility in Finaldi's eyes. "Even if the acts alleged against Mr. Egan, which we know nothing about, were true, then it would surely not mean he was not abused," said Finaldi. "To the contrary, it would corroborate his abuse."
Independent attorneys THR spoke to called that contention "asinine," "spin" and "circular reasoning." Finaldi accompanied his explanation with seemingly defensive paragraphs — unusually personal attacks on this reporter's character and a declaration that Finaldi had "honorably served my country" — while other responses from Finaldi, fellow name partner John Manly and a colleague were invariably laced with copious profanity and derision.
Like Egan, Herman too has had serious credibility issues, having been previously suspended by the Florida Bar for 18 months for dishonesty and barred for life from a federal court for a separate "credibility problem," in the judge's words.
Ultimately, Egan's 2014 cases — which alleged teen sex abuse in Hawaii in 1999 — collapsed in the face of his sworn statements relating to a similar 2000 lawsuit against three different men, where he had said under oath that he'd never been to Hawaii, had not been molested by anyone except the three individuals he was then suing and in particular that Neuman had never abused him. In the face of those revelations, Egan withdrew his 2014 cases.
But even with all this, the apologies and settlement would not have occurred were it not for the countersuits for malicious prosecution filed by Ancier in June 2014, followed by Neuman in March of this year.
Such cases are long, expensive and notoriously difficult to win, and Egan and his former lawyers fiercely resisted the suits, with the Ancier action growing to over 200 docket entries. Neuman's case is at an earlier stage; he has been unable to serve the lawsuit on Egan, who had also evaded service of process by Ancier for over a month, before finally being served in a Las Vegas casino men's room.
Also in Las Vegas – his home – Egan filed a 2006 lawsuit about a business dispute with his brother. Ultimately, though, Egan’s own attorney came to distrust him.
An Open Secret
Concurrent with the original sex abuse suits came the news that Berg was making a film, An Open Secret. The movie, which opened on nine screens in Seattle and Denver this weekend, originally screened once in New York in a form that included Egan and his allegations against the four men, without mentioning the reason that Egan dropped those cases. However, in the film as now released, the lawsuits and related claims relating to Singer, Goddard, Ancier and Neuman are gone, although Egan is still presented as telling the truth about allegations related to his 2000 suit.
Also presented as authoritative in the film is former reporter John Connolly, who appears extensively on camera and provides voiceover narration as well. The film includes a voiceover sequence in which Connolly asserts, without citing sources, that investors in an early Internet streaming company that's at the center of all of Egan's suits, Digital Entertainment Network, would "jump into the hot tub with cute boys," young boys who Connolly says were required to be naked.
As the hearsay narration continues, Connolly says, "Some of the ones that have certainly been out there are Bryan Singer" and the visual shows a newspaper photo of Goddard and Singer.
Notwithstanding this sequence, "we're not accusing Bryan Singer of anything," insisted an executive producer of the film, Gabe Hoffman, in an interview with THR.
Unmentioned in the film is Connolly's checkered past: In 1988, prior to his reporting career, Connolly was barred from the securities business by the SEC for violating securities laws. Two years later, Forbes fired him after learning of the violations.
"At the end of the day," said Hoffman of Connolly, "people aren't perfect."
The man at the center of DEN, as the Internet company was known, was Marc Collins-Rector, who later fled the country, was extradited and pleaded guilty to teen sex charges that predated his time in Los Angeles.
Exactly what went on at the Encino "M&C estate" occupied by Collins-Rector and his boyfriend Chad Shackley is difficult to determine at this remove. Berg's film insists that there were teen sex parties, while other witnesses say there weren't. Even the 2000 suit was called into question, a decade ago. Melvin Berman, a personal chef at the Encino mansion, said in a 2004 deposition in the case that Egan and a co-plaintiff offered to give him half of any recovery from the lawsuit if Berman would help them in some unspecified way. Berman added that he didn't believe that the two had actually been abused.
One indication of how muddled the facts can get: Bret Easton Ellis said in a podcast (not in Berg's movie) that he knew of an underage party held by Singer at the M&C estate in 2007 — but that's simply impossible, since Collins-Rector and Shackley fled the country in 2000 and the house was sold in September of that year. There wasn't an "M&C estate" for anyone to hold parties at by 2001, let alone 2007.
"We only put in the film what we knew could be corroborated by the highest level of evidence," said another executive producer, Matthew Valentinas, in the New York Daily News.
Separately, Berg came under fire on Friday from SAG-AFTRA, which objects to the way she ties the union name to an alleged abuser in the film, even going so far as to include shots of the SAG-AFTRA building and logo in the movie. Hoffman defended those visuals, saying, "There's a difference between assigning blame versus being critical of an organization." The film repeatedly subtitles a purported abuser as a member of the "SAG Young Performers Committee," only later clarifying that he resigned from the SAG-AFTRA committee after being interviewed.
In a chilling scene, that alleged abuser minimizes the import of teen sex abuse and appears to confess during a phone call. Other sequences in the heartfelt film are equally compelling, such as a storyline involving victim Evan Henzi, who courageously testifies against manager Marty Weiss — only to see Weiss ultimately serve only six months in county jail after plea bargaining and early release (common, at least then, in Los Angeles County due to jail overcrowding).
As regards the credibility-impaired Egan, Berg is tied also to the Manly Stewart & Finaldi firm, which ghostwrote some of Egan's legal pleadings: In her earlier film on sexually abusive priests, Deliver Us From Evil, she thanks name partner Manly in the end credits.
Still undisclosed is who met Egan first — Berg, Manly/Finaldi or Herman — and when they knew that Egan's 2014 claims were without support. When asked how Berg had found Egan, producer Hoffman hesitated, then said he didn't know. Also a mystery: Who's been paying the fees for Egan's criminal lawyer for the last two and a half years? Manly and Finaldi did not respond to a request for comment.
All that's evident today is that men's reputations were snarled by an incendiary combination of lawsuits, press conferences and, in its original version, even a film.
The Lawyers' Complete Apologies
[Herman Law letterhead]
June 5, 2015
[Dear Mr. Ancier,] [Dear Mr. Neuman,]
I sincerely apologize for bringing lawsuits against you on behalf of my former client Michael Egan. As you know, I withdrew from representing Mr. Egan two months after filing the complaints. Based on what I know now, I believe that I participated in making what I now know to be untrue and proveably false allegations against you. Had I known what I learned after filing the lawsuits, I would never have filed these claims against you. I deeply regret the pain, suffering and damage the lawsuits and publicity have caused you, and your family, friends, and colleagues.
I sincerely regret my role in this matter and for the harm that I caused. I have resolved this matter with compensation to you. I am hopeful that you can recover fully.
Very truly yours,
/s/ Jeffrey M. Herman
[Law Office of Mark Gallagher letterhead]
June 4, 2015
I sincerely apologize to [Mr. Garth Ancier] [Mr. David Neuman] for my part in bringing a lawsuit against him on behalf of my former client Michael Egan. 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 / Mr. Neuman], and his family, friends, and colleagues.
I sincerely regret my role in this matter.
/s/ Mark F. Gallagher
See the actual apologies below:
6/8/2015 3:35: Updated to include reference to correspondence between Herman and Gallagher, and Egan's Las Vegas lawsuit.
Email: [email protected]