May 14, 2012 8:25pm PT by Alex Ben Block
Lawsuit Charges 'The Wrap' With Libel Over Documentary Story
A dispute over a troubled documentary about the Mayan civilization has prompted a libel lawsuit against a Los Angeles news blog.
The Wrap and writer Steve Pond were sued Monday for at least $1 million by Elisabeth Thieriot on allegations of libel, invasion of privacy and defamation.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Thieriot charges that she financed a documentary titled Revelations of the Mayans: 2012 and Beyond, in partnership with Raul Julia-Levy, but that she had to shut the production in Mexico down after he misused rented equipment and enlisted the local authorities to try and “steal the footage, equipment and documentary” from her.
Her suit claims that in retaliation, Julia-Levy falsely accused Thieriot of fleeing Mexico in violation of a government order, illegally filming on federal ground in Mexico and stealing footage and equipment related to the documentary; all of which she says is completely false.
The suit says that Steve Pond, a columnist with The Wrap, was informed prior to publication of a story repeating Julia-Levy's accusations, that the charges were untrue, and that Julia-Levy was of questionable character and reputation. She says she informed Pond and The Wrap that she was the victim of Julia-Levy’s fraud and supplied him with information about articles in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times which say that he is not who he says he is and that he has previously been revealed to have been shown to be a fraud and con artist.
In September 2005, the New York Times quoted the wife of the late actor Raul Julia as saying the man calling himself Julia-Levy is “an imposter claiming to be the son of my late husband.”
In the article, Julia-Levy denies the allegations, and says he only met his late father when he was 17-years-old on a movie set in Mexico. The Times notes the dates he cites for the meeting did not jibe with his age and other information .
Thieriot, who says she is the ex-wife of the former publisher of The San Francisco Chronicle, describes herself as a “well respected philanthropist” and author.
“This perversion not only defames and severely damages a respected, innocent and decent human being,” says the lawsuit, “it creates a fraud on the public.”
She says that since the article was posted on The Wrap website other media have repeated the charges, with even less investigation into the true facts.
She says what The Wrap has done “exposes the continuing demise of journalistic integrity” as “publications purporting to be serious news outlets race to be the first to post online sensational and inflammatory articles without the requisite research and with total disregard for the truth.”
On his IMDB page, Julia-Levy is listed as an actor, producer and writer. Among his credits is a listing for the 2006 movie The Champagne Gang, on which he is credited as an actor and associate producer under the name Raul Julia Jr.
In the New York Times article, the late actor’s wife says that his use of that name is not only false, but that it damages her son Raul Julia Jr., the real son of the late star of Addams Family and many other major films, as well as stage and TV productions.
In the New York Times, Raul Julia’s widow says that the real name of the man making the false claims is Salvador Alba Fuentes, which she found out by hiring a private investigator.
The biography on IMDB reads: “Raul Julia-Levy grew up in Mexico City and first starred in soap operas in Europe and Mexico before relocating to the United States to pursue his dreams of acting on the big screen. He comes from a prominent family who reside in Mexico City. He is the first grandson of the late Abraham Levy who is well-known in the garment industry. His younger brother Jose Levy resides in Mexico City and is involved in politics. He has two daughters.”
The bio says it was written by “LH Vaughnes, Publicist,” but a search did not immediately turn up anyone by that name with a publicity firm.
Attempts to reach Julia-Levy were not successful.
On The Wrap website, Pond is described as “A former L.A. Times reporter” and “author of the L.A. Times bestseller The Big Show.”
The Wrap founder and editor Sharon Waxman said Monday she has not had a chance to read the lawsuit and discuss it with her attorney, so at this time she has no comment. In response to an email, Pond wrote, “I'm sorry but at this point I can't comment.”
Theiriot is represented by Larry Stein and a team from LA's Line Yankelevitz law firm.