A little over a year ago, attorney Jeff Herman convened a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and before an army of reporters, bloggers and assorted media, accused director Bryan Singer of horrific sexual misconduct.
Drugs, serial rape at parties in L.A. mansions, underage coercion. Plaintiff Michael Egan sat by his side. There were tears and high emotion. And, they both promised, more accusations were to come, sending a shudder through the entertainment community.
More than a year later, the book is being closed on a sordid chapter that should remind all of us in the media that sometimes people lie, sometimes lawyers don’t have the facts they say they have – and that it is all too easy these days to toss out a sound bite that can destroy someone’s life.
Herman will never be taken seriously again. Neither will Michael Egan. But Google search will retain the residue of an ugly chapter that has affected the lives of Singer, David Neuman, Garth Ancier and Gary Goddard.
How could such a thing happen?
The media is not fully at fault. Common sense would suggest that no one would go to the expense and trouble of filing a lawsuit making such outrageous claims, unless there was some truth there.
And Herman told the media that he had spent six months investigating Egan’s accusations. (That claim now seems highly suspect.)
But there is no doubt that the media happily ate what was served to them. Was it true? Was it credible? Was there real evidence?
“It was a shakedown,” said an insider in David Neuman’s camp, who has been insisting to me from the start that his client is blameless.
The accusations were lent credibility by the fact that some of the accused had ties to Marc Collins-Rector, a convicted sex offender and the founder of Digital Entertainment Network, where Neuman formerly worked. Later it emerged that Collins-Rector had admitted to luring five minors across state lines for sexual purposes. He served time and paid out settlements in civil suits. As for Singer – he had a bad reputation for behavior on movie sets – but it was all very vague.
I am told by insiders in this case that allegations of sexual coercion were detailed in a long-ago magazine article written by investigative journalist John Connolly – but never published – and kept getting passed around Hollywood especially throughout gay insider circles.
“It became like a game of operator, where bad information kept getting passed along and passed along,” said this insider.
That’s really not good enough to drag private individuals through the public square and label them rapists.
I’ve already written extensively about the questionable ethics and legality of this episode. And Sunday’s apology and financial settlement suggest that Herman knew he’d likely lose the malicious prosecution case brought against him by Neuman and Ancier.
In addition, it is now hard to imagine that Amy Berg‘s new movie, “Open Secret,” which apparently investigates a web of sexual misconduct in Hollywood among young men, will be taken very seriously.
There are a lot of casualties to go around in this affair. Let’s all learn a lesson from what was a losing game all the way around.