3:38pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Judge Sides With John Travolta in Spa-Sex Defamation Lawsuit (Exclusive)
John Travolta and his Hollywood lawyer have prevailed in a defamation lawsuit brought by the author of a book that claims the actor engaged in homosexual activities in bathhouses.
As The Hollywood Reporter first reported in June, Robert Randolph, who wrote You'll Never Spa in This Town Again and participated in a 2010 Gawker article called "The Secret Sex Life of John Travolta," sued the actor and attorney Marty Singer claiming he had been damaged by Singer's media statements in response to the book and article. When the Gawker piece was published, Singer responded with a lengthy letter to the gossip website denying the allegations and making several incendiary claims, including that Randolph had spent time in mental institutions and suffered from brain damage.
Randolph, who claimed his memory is not impaired, called the statements trade libel and alleged in a lawsuit that they "sought to disparage the quality of [Randolph's] property and reputation and to induce members of the public to believe [Randolph] is an unreliable source and thus abstain from purchasing" his book.
Travolta and Singer responded to the suit with an anti-SLAPP motion under California law, which bars lawsuits that infringe certain First Amendment rights. And Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey on Thursday issued a tentative ruling dismissing the case, finding that Singer's letter was a protected pre-litigation demand letter and not subject to a defamation claim. The tentative ruling was then made official after oral argument.
"Defendant Singer has amply established that he sent the 11/23/10 letter to Gawker Media in good faith and in serious consideration of litigation," the tentative decision reads. "As such, the letter is privileged."
The judge also ruled that Randolph had not proved that he was damaged at all by Singer's letter. In fact, it was noted that Randolph was able to use the Singer letter to further promote the book.
The win for Travolta and Singer comes on the heels of the dismissal of two May lawsuits by masseurs who claimed Travolta had touched them inappropriately and subjected them to unwanted sexual advances. Those cases were withdrawn voluntarily.
Travolta and Singer were represented in court by Lynda Goldman and Todd Eagan of Singer's law firm Lavely & Singer.
Randolph attorney Sarah Golden did not immediately respond to a request for comment.