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Writers Guild Strike Authorization Meetings Continue With Beverly Hills Confab

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The Wednesday night meeting was Guild members' last chance to vote in person, but online voting continues through midday Monday.
Another day, another meeting or two — and at least one more traffic jam, this one in Beverly Hills as writers flooded into the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles Wednesday night for the third of three in-person meetings to vote on a strike authorization.

By 7 p.m., the meeting's scheduled start time, the hotel's self-parking garage was filled to capacity, forcing drivers into a valet parking scrum. But for those who didn't brave the get-togethers — one in Universal City Tuesday, the Beverly Hills meeting today and a New York meeting that ended several hours ago — online voting was available and will be through midday Monday.

The result of all this will surely be a strike authorization for the Guild, which it will symbolically bring to the table when now-suspended negotiations with the studio alliance resume Tuesday.

Whether those talks will result in a deal before the current contract's scheduled expiration on May 1 is very much uncertain. The bargaining parties were $350 million apart when the matter was last assayed, and although both sides are understood to have moved since, it seems likely that a gulf of as much as $300 million separates their respective positions.

That large divide, if accurate, will complicate efforts to reach an agreement in the five business days between resumption of talks and contract expiration. In the absence of a successor agreement, the Guild has said that it will immediately go on strike. For that reason industry participants and even investors await the results of the strike authorization vote and subsequent negotiations with nervous anticipation.

NBCUniversal Sued by 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Extra Who Says He Was Taunted by Caterer

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The actor says he wasn't served because of his race.

A Brooklyn Nine-Nine extra says a caterer refused to serve him an omelet on-set and taunted him because he's Asian, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in L.A. County Superior Court.

Kwon Kang says he was dressed in costume as a police officer when he tried to order breakfast on-set in January 2016, and a Limelight Catering employee told him he "refuses to serve food to police officers because his brother was killed by a police officer."

He says he thought the man was kidding, so he asked again. That's when Kang says other chefs and crew members started laughing at him, leaving him humiliated.

"Soon thereafter the crew members stopped laughing and Limelight's employee told the plaintiff he will serve him food now," writes attorney Jamie Jiyoon Kim in the complaint. "Despite the oppressive and discriminative behavior by Limelight's employee, Plaintiff was thankful and he expressed his gratitude." But, Kang says, he still wasn't served and became even more embarrassed.

According to the complaint, the employee served other background actors who were wearing the same police uniform, and Kang was the only Asian among them.

He is suing Limelight for assault, racial discrimination and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and NBC for failure to maintain a harassment-free environment. He's seeking $500,000 in punitive damages plus lost earnings.

A letter from NBC to Kang is attached to the suit. It says the company investigated the incident after the actor brought it to the attention of SAG-AFTRA and was unable to substantiate his allegations of verbal harassment or inappropriate conduct but it used the complaint as an opportunity to remind crew members of policies prohibiting discrimination.

NBC and Limelight did not comment on the suit, which is posted in full below.


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Ashley Cullins
ashley.cullins@thr.com
@AshleyCullins

Blake Shelton Settles Defamation Fight With In Touch Weekly

Blake Shelton Settles Defamation Fight With In Touch Weekly

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The deal resolves a dispute over a 2015 cover that said the singer had hit rock bottom.

Country singer Blake Shelton and In Touch Weekly have reached a settlement in the defamation fight over a Sept. 28, 2015, cover story headlined "The Real Story: REHAB for Blake."

Details of the settlement have not been released, but Shelton’s attorney Larry Stein confirmed Thursday that the singer and magazine have resolved the situation amicably.

Shelton cleared a tough legal hurdle last April, when the court found the magazine's claims weren't protected speech. Attorneys for In Touch had argued that Shelton's suit was barred by California's anti-SLAPP statute, which aims to bring an early end to lawsuits that arise from constitutionally protected activity like free speech.

California federal judge Christina A. Snyder found the headline alone supported a claim for libel per se. "A reasonable person viewing the In Touch headlines and sub-headlines –– which were located 30 pages away from the Article –– might well have concluded that Shelton had, in fact, entered 'REHAB' after 'his friends begged him to stop joking about drinking & get help,'" Snyder wrote.

As a public figure, Shelton faced an uphill battle because he would have to prove the magazine published the story with "actual malice" in order to succeed on his defamation claim — and In Touch argued his drunken tweets made him libel-proof in this instance.

But beating the anti-SLAPP motion was a strong sign that the court believed Shelton could prove In Touch either knew the claims were false or acted with reckless disregard of the truth. In fact, Snyder, in denying the motion to strike the complaint, found it was undisputed that the magazine ran the headline without believing the singer was actually in rehab.




Ashley Cullins
ashley.cullins@thr.com
@AshleyCullins

Roman Polanski's Attorney Skewers L.A. Justice System in New Filing

"Mr. Polanski was as justified in fleeing this Court's illegal conduct as he was to flee the Germans who invaded Poland," writes Harland Braun.

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Director Roman Polanski isn't giving up on his attempt to find out if U.S. prosecutors intend to put him behind bars if he were to return to the States — and his lawyer isn't mincing his words.

The 83-year-old Oscar winner asked the court to force prosecutors to state on the record whether they believe he has served his time for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl. Polanski contends that he fled decades ago because he got word that the late Judge Laurence Rittenband was going to increase his sentence from three months of psychiatric evaluation to five decades behind bars. L.A. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon earlier this month denied this request, finding that Polanski isn't entitled to have his demands heard by the court while he stands in contempt of it.

In a motion to reconsider filed Friday, attorney Harland Braun called the order "morally incoherent, legally illogical, and factually deceptive."

"Rather than the 90 days promised Mr. Polanski, this Court threatened Mr. Polanski with up to 50 years in state prison and deportation," writes Braun. "If a defendant flees because of an illegal judicial threat, that threat should be removed before the defendant is expected to return to court."

The attorney argues that Gordon failed to mention in his decision the reason Polanski fled because it eviscerates his theory for applying the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which holds that a fugitive from justice can't seek relief from the judicial system whose authority he or she is evading.

"The Court should consider why Mr. Polanski was not charged with unlawful flight by either the State or federal authorities," writes Braun. "Mr. Polanski was as justified in fleeing this Court's illegal conduct as he was to flee the Germans who invaded Poland."

Braun argues that the only question before the court is a simple one: What was Polanski promised 40 years ago? He says declarations of defense counsel, the victim's lawyer and former Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson all show Polanski's 43 days of psychiatric evaluation were intended to have satisfied his total custody time. Gunson's sworn testimony is currently sealed, and Braun has filed a motion to make that public.

"Once the promise is established, this case solves itself," writes Braun — noting that, while 43 days had been deemed sufficient, Polanski later served more than nine months in Swiss custody while authorities were deciding whether or not to extradite him. "The Court has no legal alternative but to give Mr. Polanski credit for his total custody time in California and Switzerland."

Should that happen, Braun argues that "simple math" shows Polanski has already served more time than the 90 days he was promised. (Read the motion in full below.) He also says that judges asking prosecutors, "What is the people's position?" is a commonplace occurrence in criminal courtrooms, and there is nothing strange or unprecedented about Polanski wanting that question answered in his case.

"What if the People represented to the Court that Mr. Polanski owes no more custody time?" asks Braun. "Does that not simplify this proceeding?"

A hearing on the motion to unseal Gunson's testimony is currently set for April 25, which will likely also be the date the motion to reconsider is heard.

Sylvester Stallone Suing Warner Bros. for Fraud and "Dishonesty"
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The actor claims that the studio intentionally concealed 'Demolition Man' profits and is seeking to "end" bad accounting practices on Warners' part "for all talent."

In the 1993 science-fiction film Demolition Man, Sylvester Stallone's character is brought out of a decades-long state of cryopreservation to pursue a nemesis. The actor himself has now wakened from a slumber of a different kind to take on Warner Bros. over its accounting of profits on the film.

On Wednesday, through his loan-out company Rogue Marble, Stallone filed contract and fraud claims against the studio. In a complaint lodged in Los Angeles Superior Court, he alleges that the participation statement doesn't make sense while demanding a fuller accounting on Demolition Man, which also starred Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. The film made about $58 million upon its theatrical release and much more in home video sales.

In taking on Warner Bros., Stallone is fighting the same studio that distributed 2015's Creed, which earned him an Oscar nomination. But the 70-year-old actor believes the time is right and is making a stab at doing something about "Hollywood Accounting" with the stated intention of helping others in the creative community.

"The motion picture studios are notoriously greedy," states the complaint. "This one involves outright and obviously intentional dishonesty perpetrated against an international iconic talent. Here, WB decided it just wasn't going to account to Rogue Marble on the Film. WB just sat on the money owed to Rogue Marble for years and told itself, without any justification, that Rogue Marble was not owed any profits. When a representative of Rogue Marble asked for an accounting, WB balked and then sent a bogus letter asserting the Film was $66,926,628 unrecouped. When challenged about this false accounting, it made a double-talk excuse, then prepared an actual profit participation statement for the same reporting period, and sent a check for $2,820,000 because the Film had in fact recouped its deficit."

According to the lawsuit, Stallone got 15 percent of defined gross once the picture earned $125 million. When Demolition Man earned more than $200 million, his take would escalate to 17.5 percent, and when it surpassed $250 million, his profit participation would climb to 20 percent.

Demolition Man, states the complaint, achieved at least $125 million, so Stallone asserts he's entitled to at least 15 percent.

Stallone says that after 1997, he got no profit participation statements until his agent reached out to Warners in 2014 to inquire.

In January 2015, he received a short summary which noted an alleged deficit for the film and stated that no payment was due. Stallone's company then questioned the validity of numbers "because they did not make any sense." Soon, a second statement came along with a $2.8 million check. It was only one page. There wasn't much detail.

"Rogue Marble alleges on information and belief that it is owed additional contingent compensation on the Film," states the complaint.

The actor is seeking an unknown amount of restitution for the alleged contractual breach and also targeting much greater damages with a fraud claim. Stallone will be attempting to support the fraud claim by showing that the studio misrepresented and intentionally concealed facts. However, as the case moves forward, he'll likely need to demonstrate why such a claim isn't duplicative of the asserted contract breach.

Somewhat unusually, Stallone is also bringing a cause of action that alleges Warner Bros. has engaged in unfair business practices. The complaint characterizes the studio's conduct as "unscrupulous, unethical and offensive, and causes substantial injury to consumers" and "threatens or harms competition because other studios (that compete with WB) have their own agreements with profit participants and account using their own accounting methods. ... WB attempts to keep its accounting methods hidden from competitors and the public at large because revealing such methods will have an impact on competition."

Besides money, the actor wants injunctive relief. The complaint states, "Mr. Stallone is entitled to, among other things, a full accounting, an explanation of how this practice came to be, interest, damages, and an end to this practice for all talent who expect to be paid by WB for the fruits of their labor."

We've uploaded a full copy of the complaint. Stallone is represented by attorney Neville Johnson.

Warner Bros. had no comment.