8:15am PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Halle Berry's Lawyer at Center of Bizarre Legal Battle: "Sex Slave" or Stalker?
This story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
It's every Hollywood attorney's nightmare. A woman claiming she's a former client starts a yearlong campaign of harassment, including threats to expose affairs and emails to co-workers referencing drug addiction and mental decline. In the case of Neil Meyer, the prominent talent dealmaker who has represented Chris Evans and Halle Berry, he alleges the persecution has culminated in a sordid sexual abuse lawsuit from a woman suing as "Jane Doe." In her April 10 suit, the woman claims Meyer made her his "virtual sex slave" from 2009 to 2013, coercing her with claims of influence over her acting career into "sexual acts that Plaintiff found repulsive, humiliating, dehumanizing, painful and physically and mentally injurious." The question now is whether any of it is true.
Meyer declined to comment, but his attorney, Mark Baute, who also repped Meyer's client Nicollette Sheridan in her case over her exit from Desperate Housewives, says the woman is simply a jilted mistress: "A casual and consensual relationship ended and one party did not want it to end, so she has decided that the court system is the new place for her to vent her anger." Meyer's firm, Stone Meyer Genow Smelkinson & Binder, also targeted, declined to comment via litigator Larry Stein.
Who is Jane Doe? Meyer's lawyers say she is Wen Yann Shih, an actress with credits including the 2003 Matt Damon comedy Stuck on You and roles in Parenthood and NCIS. In March 2014, Meyer, now divorced, got a temporary restraining order against her. The court documents filed by Meyer and obtained by THR include emails in which Shih purportedly tells Meyer's co-workers that he is mentally impaired and abuses drugs. In another email, she threatens to send "a package" to his family unless he travels with her to China. In his request for the order, Meyer claimed he ended their relationship around February 2014. "She then asked me to commit to having sex with her once a week, but I refused," he wrote in a signed declaration. "She then asked for sex once a month, but I refused. She then said we would be at war."
Meyer’s attorneys say Shih is the Jane Doe plaintiff; she was arrested in 2004 for domestic violence after allegedly chasing a romantic partner with a hammer.
In the emails she threatens to "educate everyone," but when Meyer calls her information "embarrassing texts and emails" she responds, "If you think I'm releasing embarrassing emails and texts, you are mistaken. I'm not a child. This is serious." In the rest of the exchange, which took place entirely on February 6, 2014 Meyer mentions he agreed to write Shih's father an apology — "You stripped me of honor," she tells him — and to pay $30,000 to her and a charity, but he refuses to travel with or without her to speak to her father. She responds, "You said you didn't want to go on a trip with me because you no longer wanted me sexually. I took sex off the table. Not good enough, you still don’t want to go."
Jane Doe's attorneys, Jeffrey Lipow and Kevin Salute, won't confirm their client's identity. But their description of the restraining order against her matches Meyer's order against Shih. An April 2014 hearing in the matter was postponed, and when it finally was held in May, no one showed up. "Once Ms. Doe hired a lawyer to challenge Mr. Meyer's claim, he dismissed it," Lipow tells THR. "Meyer's declaration, which he used to obtain the [order] and then abandoned in the face of Ms. Doe's defense, is refuted by substantial evidence, including his representations as to the nature of the relationship."
Meyer's attorneys counter by pointing to a 2004 domestic violence incident in which Shih was arrested for allegedly attacking her romantic partner with a hammer. In a declaration in 2005 Keith Anderson claimed she'd become enraged when he was a groomsman in his friend's wedding and she wasn't a bridesmaid, so she "rammed" his car in their driveway and sliced his hand when he tried to grab the sharp end of the hammer. A civil case settled in 2006, and the criminal charges were dismissed. Says Lipow: "Ms. Doe has no criminal convictions, and the reference to dismissed claims from 2004 are a desperate effort to deflect attention from Mr. Meyer's sordid behavior."