Jeff Herman, Go-To Attorney for Hollywood Sex Abuse Claims, Was Once Accused of Rape

Courtesy of Herman Law

In the news for suing Bryan Singer (again), Herman escaped prosecution despite what the police recommended. He denies the allegations.

Jeff Herman represents two Harvey Weinstein accusers, actresses Kadian Noble and Dominique Huett, and on Thursday made more news by reportedly suing director Bryan Singer for allegedly raping Cesar Sanchez-Guzman in 2003, when he was 17 years old.

Singer denies the allegations and points out that Herman previously represented Michael Egan in 2014 rape cases against Singer and three other Hollywood gay men that collapsed within weeks, forcing Herman to admit to “untrue and provably false allegations” and pay a settlement to two of the men.

In addition, the New York- and Florida-based Herman had previously been disciplined in two separate incidents of misconduct involving dishonesty. Nonetheless, he has become a go-to lawyer on sexual abuse in Hollywood and has appeared on television to talk about his cases and others.

But what he hasn’t publicly discussed is that he was accused of committing rape in 1998.

The alleged victim was his Miami law firm’s young receptionist. Three weeks ago, The Hollywood Reporter was contacted by the receptionist’s ex-boyfriend, who informed THR of a 58-page police report, which THR obtained from the Plantation, Fla. police department. He also noted that she never sought money or filed suit. Herman denied the allegations then and denied them to THR on Thursday, after first professing confusion. The police recommended prosecution, but prosecutors declined to file charges.

The incident occurred at the same time Herman was shifting his practice from low-profile commercial litigation to sex abuse cases, which then became and has remained his firm’s primary focus.

In a phone interview recorded with Herman’s consent, the lawyer expressed incredulity when asked about allegations of rape, then answered “no” when asked specifically about the receptionist, after which he seemed to mumble, “Oh, crap” (which may not be discernable on cellphone or laptop speakers). His answers were prefaced with long, halting pauses.

Exactly an hour later, THR has learned, a reporter for TMZ contacted Singer’s representatives for comment on an exclusive story, that Herman had filed a new lawsuit against Singer (although actually Herman’s name is not on the complaint that appears on his website). The story posted a few minutes later and was widely picked up, effectively preempting the news cycle ahead of this article.

Click here to listen to THR's interview with Herman.

The Allegations and Response

At the time of the alleged incident, Herman was the owner and managing partner of Herman Law Firm, P.A., which had offices on the 26th floor of a dramatic office tower in Miami. At 39, he was twice as old as the then 19-year-old receptionist/file clerk, who had been on the job for just two months and had only recently moved to the city and out of her parents’ small-town home.

According to the police reports, the rape allegedly took place at Herman’s Florida home.

“I began to let him know that I didn’t want to do this, and that it wasn’t right,” the receptionist wrote in a detailed statement she gave to police. She said she told Herman that she didn’t want to cheat on her boyfriend. Herman replied, “‘He kicked you out.… He lost his right to claim you,’” according to the receptionist.

The seven-page statement next says that Herman removed the receptionist’s shorts and violated her with his hands and penis. After she protested, she said, he compelled her to use her hand to satisfy him.

Herman told police a different story, involving some of the same actions, but with consent and without any penetration. He said the receptionist expressed interest in him, so he called her. He said his wife had left him a month or two before the incident.

See the police report here.

The Police Recommend Prosecution, but Prosecutors Decline

After detectives completed their investigation, they recommended that Herman be prosecuted under the Florida rape statute. However, several months later, Broward County assistant state attorney Dennis Nicewander declined to prosecute, citing “insufficient evidence.”

A review of the police documents indicates that the case was a he said/she said without corroborating eyewitnesses or physical evidence, and Nicewander, who focuses on sex abuse cases, tells THR in an interview that he would likely have reached the same decision not to proceed had he known that just one year earlier, a federal judge in Oregon had barred Herman from his courtroom for life because of dishonesty, an extraordinary move.

“That wouldn’t have had a whole lot of bearing [on a decision whether to prosecute],” Nicewander says, because “it wouldn’t be admissible at trial.” Speaking generally, he adds that it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to get “cases where we believe the victim but can’t prosecute” due to the need to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, a high standard.

The receptionist, who now works in a professional capacity in a large city, did not respond to requests for comment and THR is withholding her name. Back in 1998, she told police that she had contemporaneously described the incident to her boyfriend (who confirms as much to THR), another friend and others, but the police apparently did not interview them, and their names are redacted.

No Consequences

Herman apparently suffered no adverse consequences from the rape allegations, as well as what followed. The receptionist reported he initiated more sexual contact in the days after the alleged assault. Her ex-boyfrend tells THR that she quit at the end of the week in question and did not report rape or harassment to the law firm, since Herman was the managing partner and his mother was the office administrator and HR person. The receptionist visited a rape counselor, then filed her police complaint five days after quitting.

Herman soon became a prominent sex abuse attorney, bringing cases nationwide, including the 2012 lawsuit against the Sesame Street “Elmo” puppeteer Kevin Clash (which was later dismissed), and claims to have secured more than $200 million in judgments and settlements.

But his prominence has continued to be marred by citations for dishonesty, some of which THR has previously reported. In addition, he lied at a press conference involving his client Egan, claiming to have investigated Egan’s claims for six months before filing suit, when in fact an email later obtained by THR showed that Egan had only been a client for about half that time. And his firm’s self-described “Special Investigative Unit” never produced any corroborating evidence in Egan’s cases so far as is known, and overlooked readily discoverable exculpatory evidence.

Herman declined to comment about the press conferences, but previously told THR that his history of dishonesty and bringing people into disrepute on false accusations were merely “irrelevant blemishes“ on his record.

In today’s climate, even an accusation of sexual harassment, let alone rape, can get a man fired, at least in the media and entertainment industries. But despite these claims against him in his past, Herman has now made a career of accusing others.

Jan. 18, 10:20 am Clarification: Herman’s attorney disputes that he says what appears to be “Oh, crap” on the tape and points to an opinion by an audio expert. In addition, as a point of clarification, the police report refers to Herman’s alleged actions as “sexual battery.”

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