August 18, 2011 6:20pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Ryan O'Neal Defamation Lawsuit Challenged in New Court Filing (Exclusive)
The film/TV producer sued for defamation by Ryan O’Neal has fired back at the actor, claiming in a strongly worded court filing that the lawsuit based on comments concerning a fight over artwork once owned by O’Neal ex Farrah Fawcett should be dismissed.
Craig Nevius, who produced a TV show about the late actress (Chasing Farrah) and worked on a documentary about her fight against cancer, claims in a motion filed Thursday that O’Neal wrongly sued him for excercizing his free speech on an issue of public concern.
For those late to the story, O’Neal was sued in July by the University of Texas, which claims that Fawcett bequeathed it all of her artwork when she passed away in 2009. The Fawcett artwork includes an Andy Warhol portrait that O’Neal claims is his. When Nevius, who was friendly with Fawcett before she died, spoke out about his knowledge of Fawcett’s artwork and helped the university with its case, O’Neal sued him for $1 million for defamation.
O’Neal, who the motion says is “now better known for his womanizing, drug abuse, various criminal arrests and savage beatings of his children,” argued that Nevius's statements in Star magazine and on Good Morning America defamed him.
Now Nevius is fighting back, filing a motion under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, which allows for certain lawsuits concerning public speech to be dismissed at an early stage.
Nevius claims O'Neal's lawsuit is wrong because he never told the university or the investigators that O’Neal had “stolen” anything. “Nevius never stated to any reporter that O’Neal had ‘stolen’ or ‘concealed’ the Warhol portrait and never said that there was any ‘police’ investigation of O’Neal,” according to the motion.
Nevius says the real reason for the lawsuit is clear: “to get Nevius to stop providing information that he has which appears to evidence the fact that O’Neal was not prepared to deal with Ms. Fawcett’s passing without a $30 million souvenir.”
O'Neal recently asked for more time to respond to the University of Texas lawsuit.
The new filing also includes three declarations, from Nevius (who describes a whole bunch of crazy behavior on O'Neal's part) as well as Fawcett's former personal assistant Mike Pingel and her longtime friend Gregg Lott. In his declaration, Lott says O'Neal's contention that Warhol made one of the portraits for him is not true. "Farrah always had possession of both Warhol portraits from the day they were created and they were unquestionably owned by her and her alone," Lott's declaration states.
We've put in a call to O'Neal attorney Marty Singer and will update with a response. UPDATE: "We don't believe this is a case that subjects itself to anti-SLAPP," Singer tells us. "We believe we will prevail."
Nevius's motion was filed by Lincoln Bandlow at L.A.'s Lathrop and Gage firm.