Analyzing The Media’s Hypocrisy In Reporting On The Michael Jackson Settlement Cases Vs. The Settlements of Other Celebrities- Pt. 4

I figured I would just cut to the chase, and let you get on with your reading…
Part 5 coming soon!

Analyzing The Media’s Hypocrisy In Reporting On The Michael Jackson Settlement Cases vs The Settlements Of Other Celebrities

By: Dave Edwards

Now, let me segue into other high profile individuals who have settled multi-million dollar lawsuits out of court, and have been “forgiven” by the media.  The first is two-time Superbowl Champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, followed by Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver Michael Irvin, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, political commentator Bill O’Reilly, and college basketball coach Rick Pitino. Afterwards, I will end with our most under-reported settlement scam artist, Janet Arvizo!

Ben Roethlisberger

On July 17th, 2009 Roethlisberger was hit was a civil lawsuit that was filed by a woman named Andrea McNulty, who worked at a Harrah’s hotel in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.  She claimed that she was sexually assaulted on July 11th, 2008 inside of Roethlisberger’s room after he requested that she fix his broken television.  The police were never notified, and physical evidence was not collected. (A huge red flag should be waving over your head right now!)  She asked for monetary damages of $440k. The civil suit also names eight Harrah’s officials as defendants, alleging they orchestrated a “cover-up” of the incident. The suit says she suffered depression, was hospitalized, and forced to take leave from her job in the year after the incident. Roethlisberger denied all accusations, countersued her for extortion, and vowed not to give in to her demands.

Now, hold up! Wait a minute! Let’s look at those dates: she was allegedly assaulted in July 2008, and made no attempt to notify authorities to seek justice, but she filed a civil lawsuit in July 2009? Based on those facts alone, do you think Ben is guilty? I sure don’t! (Although I’m not too sure about that second accusation!) What kind of rape victim puts money ahead of justice?

Now, here’s where things get suspicious: in September 2009, McNulty made Roethlisberger a settlement offer that she thought he couldn’t refuse: she would drop the civil suit if he admits to raping her, apologizes, and gives $100,000 to the Committee to Aid Abused Women, which is a non-profit agency in Reno that helps victims of domestic violence. (That’s not a typo!  I’m not kidding around!  She really made that offer to him!)

Needless to say, Roethlisberger flatly rejected her offer!

Now, fast forward to March 2010, and Roethlisberger is charged with another sexual assault.  He was bar-hopping with friends and bodyguards when he invited some young ladies into the VIP section of a bar, and somehow he ended up alone in a bathroom stall with one of them (who was drunk), and the next thing you know he’s facing another allegation.  After several weeks of investigation, the district attorney decided that he would not prosecute Roethlisberger due to his lack of faith in his ability to prove his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  He could not find any probable cause against Roethlisberger, and as a result no arrest was made. (Gee, does that sound familiar? Kinda like how Sneddon couldn’t arrest MJ due to lack of probable cause!)

In his press conference, he alluded to the fact that a few weeks prior to his decision not to press charges, the accuser had a change of heart, and decided not to continue cooperating with police, and that has led some to speculate that she and Roethlisberger negotiated an out of court civil settlement.  This is very similar to both Blanca Francia and Kobe Bryant (coming up next!), because in all three of these cases, the criminal case first collapsed (or in the case of Jason Francia, it never existed in the first place), and subsequently a potential civil suit was settled out of court. This article talks about this in more detail, and the author compared Roethlisberger to MJ by saying that these types of settlements create a suspicion of guilt. (In my opinion, out of court settlements only create “suspicion” to people who are too lazy to do any research, and who pre-judged the defendants as being guilty anyway!)

Now, let’s get back to the first accuser.  Obviously, after seeing this current chain of events, she flip flopped and rescinded her settlement offer to Roethlisberger because he’s now viewed as “vulnerable”. Her initial demand was to have the $100k donated to charity, but I think that now she wants to continue with the lawsuit so that he settles and pays her the money instead! And with all of the negative publicity that he has been through over the last year, nobody could blame him for just settling and moving on with his life. I’m sure I would do the same if I was in his position because I wouldn’t want the media spotlight hanging over my civil trial, and having my dirty laundry aired in public, etc.  But if Roethlisberger decides to fight the suit, then good for him!  At least he doesn’t have to worry about a criminal trial!

Personally, Andrea McNulty reminds me a lot about Evan Chandler. They both made outrageous demands that they couldn’t have possibly thought would have ever been met. (Andrea wanted Roethlisberger to publicly admit wrongdoing, and Evan wanted to record a rebuttal album! Are you kidding me?) And they both had no intentions of ever seeking justice through a criminal trial (and Evan only reluctantly told his shrink to notify the authorities when he learned that June Chandler regained custody of Jordie).  In fact, here is Evan’s recollection of the “gut-wrenching” decision that he had to make, from “All That Glitters”, pages 119-121:

In a phone conversation the night before Freeman’s request was to be heard in court, Barry counseled Evan that unless he was willing to walk into the courtroom and accuse Michael of molesting Jordie, he didn’t have a prayer of winning; June had legal custody and that was all she needed to get Jordie back.

 

“How long will I have?” Evan asked.

 

“One, maybe two days.”

 

“What if I refuse to give him back?”

 

“If you don’t give him back the sheriff will come take him.  And he may arrest you, too.”

 

Accusing Michael of molestation was a can of worms Evan did not want to open.  He doubted anyone would take Jordie’s word over Michael’s, especially If June took Michael’s side. And she’d have to; otherwise she’d be implicating herself.  But it was Jordie’s fears over the prospect of going to court that weighted heaviest on Evan’s mind.

 

At the same time, Evan knew that as soon as June had Jordie back in her clutches she’d be on a plane to join Michael, who was already out of the country.  Evan believed with absolute certainty that if Jordie went on tour with Michael he’d suffer severe psychological damage.

 

“I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” Evan lamented to Barry.  “What if I take him out of California and hide for a while?  Maybe that’ll buy you some time to come up with the necessary appeals.”

 

“Appeals!” the attorney exclaimed.  “Are you nuts!  You’ll be a fugitive in the eyes of the law.  You’ll end up in jail and guarantee June permanent custody.  You can forget about any appeals.”

 

Confused and saddened, Evan thanked Barry for all his help and hung up.

 

“What’s the matter, Pops?” Jordie asked.  He’d been standing next to his father while he talked to Barry.

 

“They’re going to make you go back tomorrow, Jordie. Barry says we have no choice.”

 

Uh-uh! No way!  I’ll run away first.”

 

Buoyed by his son’s feistiness, Evan made him a promise.  “If that’s the way you feel, then I’m with you.  But we’ve got one move left.  If it doesn’t work, then we’ll go.”

 

For the past six weeks the two sides had gone back and forth, each trying to outmaneuver the other in what Evan called “the chess game from hell.” Now he found himself checkmated. “They left me no choice.  The only move I had left was to kick over the table before they took the king.”

 

Evan dialed the number.  “Do you remember me?” he asked.  “I’m the one who came to your office and told you about my son.”

 

“Yes,” Dr. Abrams replied.  “I remember very well.”

 

It was the one thing Evan had tried so desperately to avoid.  Once he supplied the names, the psychiatrist would have no choice but to file a report with the authorities, who would then assume full control.

 

“The thought of placing Jordie in the hands of a government agency was frightening,” Evan commented. “Almost as frightening as returning him to June and Michael.”

 

Evan took a few seconds to think before embarking into the unknown; then he took a deep breath.  “My name is Evan Chandler.  My son’s name is Jordie Chandler.  The adult male is Michael Jackson.  Can you help me? Please!”

 

Other than the knowledge that Michael had touched Jordie’s penis, Evan had never asked his son about the sex.  But Dr. Abrams would, and Evan hoped he would be convinced of the truth and be willing to appear at the court hearing the following morning as an expert witness. “I’m sorry,” Dr. Abrams said.  “I can’t see him today.  But don’t worry; bring him in first thing in the morning.”

Despite the DA’s tacit admission that Roethlisberger’s actions were not entirely wholesome on the fateful night, the media has pretty much let the story die down. You don’t see ESPN’s legal analysts publicly calling him a “rapist” or “predator”, and once he serves his four game suspension and starts winning games again, nobody will even remember this dark episode of his life.

NFL Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin faced a similar situation earlier this year as well.  In February 2010, he was hit with a $1 million dollar civil lawsuit from a woman who claimed that he raped her in July 2007.  Yes, that’s right, July 2007! Unlike the Roethlisberger case, the police were notified, but not until two weeks after the alleged assault, and the accuser signed a “waiver of prosecution,” which basically means that the accuser wanted to “put it behind her and not have it be splashed all over the newspapers.”

Irvin was approached by the accuser’s lawyer shortly before he was to appear on last season’s “Dancing With The Stars”competition. Irvin was told he must pay the woman $1 million, or a lawsuit would be filed to coincide with the Super Bowl, which was being played Feb. 7, 2010 in Miami. Irvin’s lawyer called the lawsuit “civil extortion,” saying the woman’s entire story is false.

Irvin has filed a $100 million dollar countersuit against the woman after her lawsuit was made public, claiming, among other things, civil extortion and defamation. It’s obvious that Irvin refused her demand outright, but he did attempt to “negotiate” with her in order to avoid the negative publicity, which is something that he couldn’t afford after numerous arrests during his career. The accuser first asked for the $1 million that she originally demanded, then dropped it to 800k. If you’re wondering why Irvin would even attempt to “negotiate” with someone who is obviously extorting him, look no further than this:  as a result of the negative publicity stemming from the civil lawsuit when it was filed (combined with his checkered past), Irvin was FIRED from his ESPN Radio job! Irvin felt that it was tangibly cheaper to pay a settlement, and by doing so it would have saved his reputation (whose worth is intangible!) from being further sullied!

On a positive note, Irvin will not face criminal charges due to the fact that the accuser waited so long to report the alleged assault that no physical evidence could be found.

It seems like this accuser used the Blanca Francia “playbook” by threatening a civil lawsuit against Irvin right before the Super Bowl, the same way Francia threatened MJ with her lawsuit right before HIStory was released.  The difference is that MJ’s negotiations with Blanca were successful, and as a result the lawsuit was never filed, but Irvin’s negotiations failed. As of now, the lawsuit is still pending, and I have yet to hear Irvin publicly called a rapist by any media pundits!

Kobe Bryant

Michael Irvin

On the night of June 30th, 2003, Bryant checked himself into a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado.  He met a young female employee, who gave him a tour of the hotel, and later that night they had a sexual encounter.  To make a long story short, she felt that she was raped, while Bryant felt it was consensual, and you know how that goes!  On September 1st, 2004, after over a year of investigating, the District Attorney was forced to drop the case after the accuser refused to testify.  Ironically, she filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant BEFORE the police had completed their investigation. (Wow, does that sound familiar?) Here is attorney Jonna Spilbor’s take on it:

Another development in the case is that, as noted above, the accuser has sued Bryant for sexual assault. She is seeking monetary damages – including punitive damages.

 

The fact of the suit is not surprising – especially since Bryant is a high-profile, deep-pockets defendant. But the timing of the suit is surprising indeed, especially since the statute of limitations on the civil suit is nowhere close to running out.

Generally, victims wait until a criminal conviction before suing. There are several reasons why. A guilty verdict in the criminal matter – where the burden of proof is far greater – makes a civil case much easier to prove. Indeed, once convicted, a defendant will often capitulate, paying a large settlement because he knows he won’t win the civil case.

 

So why is this an exception to the rule? Why did the accuser jump the gun on the civil suit? Unfortunately, none of the explanations is good for either the prosecution or the accuser.

 

The accuser and/or the prosecution may have wanted to get her story out there — to taint the jury pool, and provide some much needed counter-spin. Or she may anticipate a loss at trial, or a dismissal – and she may understand that an acquittal might destroy her civil case, and even a dismissal might hamstring the case.

Let’s be blunt: If the accuser expected a conviction, she’d have waited to sue. And if even the alleged victim herself doesn’t expect a conviction, how likely is it that a jury will vote unanimously for one?

 

For the prosecution, the filing of the civil suit is more bad news. The defense has argued, and intends to keep arguing, that the accuser is lying to make money.

And the theory has some legs. Already, the accuser has received nearly $20,000, the maximum amount allowed to a crime victim in Colorado, from the state’s victims’ compensation fund. Doubtless, the defense attorneys will make much of this fact at trial.

 

Now that the victim has sued to get even more money, jurors may wonder: How much money does she want? And how much role is her claim for cash playing in this case?

On March 2nd, 2005 Bryant and his accuser settled their civil lawsuit out of court. Andrew Cohen, another “unsung hero” of the legal community, gave his analysis on the settlement. Notice how he references MJ’s case as well:

The immediate catalyst for the deal was Bryant’s scheduled pre-trial deposition, which was supposed to take place last Friday but which was mysteriously postponed at the last minute. As soon as the deposition was scheduled, as soon as a date for it was fixed, this settlement was a cinch; as sure a thing as Jack Nicholson sitting courtside at the Staples Center. Bryant’s attorneys and handlers never were going to permit him to face questions, under oath, about any other “relationships” or “encounters” or “hookups” or whatever he may have had with any other young women while traveling on the road for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Naturally, I have no idea whether Bryant engaged in any such dalliances. During the criminal trial, there were strong hints, from media reports and otherwise, that perhaps there were other women who might have been able to talk about a pattern of behavior on the part of Bryant that might have been relevant in that case. Now we will never know. But what we do know is that Camp Kobe understood that the star’s already tattered reputation would get even shakier were he to be deposed in the civil case.

That’s because no one believes that Bryant’s testimony, whatever it would have been, would have remained private and sealed and closed to public scrutiny for long. In the Michael Jackson case, grand jury transcripts that never should have seen the light of day were posted on the Internet long before the King of Pop’s trial. Does anyone believe it would have been different with Bryant’s deposition transcript? I bet we would have seen details emerge within days or even hours of the end of Bryant’s testimony. And I’m sure that Bryant’s attorneys would not have taken that bet.

 If anything, there would have been more pressure, and more incentive, to leak portions of the Bryant transcript than there was to leak the Jackson grand jury material. Virtually everyone knew before the transcripts were posted what the Jackson case was about; virtually no one knows what Bryant would have said when asked about other hotel stays, in other towns, at other times. And once that information was released publicly, once it was leaked the way it seems always to be leaked these days, the damage to Bryant’s reputation would have been cemented into place no matter how the civil case turned out.

Cohen is trying to make the argument that regardless of the outcome of the case, it was in Kobe’s best interest to settle.  He couldn’t afford to have his personal life splattered all over the tabloids by being asked under oath about his other mistresses, the same way MJ’s lawyers didn’t want him being asked about his habit of sharing his bed with children who are not his own.  By settling, Kobe was able to just put the ugly episode behind him once and for all, the accuser was paid millions of dollars, and in retrospect both parties made the right decision. Since settling the case in 2005, Kobe has led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning the last two. He signed a seven year, $136 million dollar contract to remain with the Lakers, and – as a result of avoiding the negative publicity that a civil trial would have brought – he was able to regain his endorsements with Nike, Coca-Cola, etc.  In fact, in a recent poll, Kobe moved up into a tie with Tiger Woods as America’s favorite athlete. (Or, you could argue that Tiger Woods moved down in that poll into a tie with Kobe, based on his recent sex-capades!)

As a result of the civil settlement, and with the media’s complete compliance, Kobe was able to regain his reputation and his popularity! He is now officially considered the most marketable player in the NBA, especially with LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in such a shameless display of selfishness! When was the last time you heard a sports columnist refer to Kobe as a “rapist”? When was the last time you heard a legal analyst say that Kobe “bought the silence” of his accuser? Kobe’s story is a prime example of what Sony and MJ’s insurance carrier were hoping for when it settled, but as we all know the media never stopped spinning it as a sign of guilt. In a way, you could make the argument that the accuser “legally extorted” the money from Kobe, but obviously Kobe was all too willing to pay. It would have been too costly to prove his innocence!

 

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