The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands is trying to subpoena billionaire Elon Musk for documents in its lawsuit seeking to hold JPMorgan Chase liable for sex trafficking acts committed by businessman Jeffrey Epstein. Musk has never been publicly accused of any wrongdoing related to Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 as he awaited sex trafficking charges in a federal jail in Manhattan. But over the years, there had been unconfirmed speculation — encouraged by Epstein himself — that Epstein had advised Musk on certain business matters. Also Read: Musk, new Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino spar over content moderation during on-stage interview Spokespeople for Musk have denied those reports, but the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands said in a court filing that it believes Epstein may have referred or tried to refer Musk to JPMorgan as a potential client. The Virgin Islands, where Epstein had an estate, sued JPMorgan last year, saying its investigation has revealed that the financial services giant enabled Epstein’s recruiters to pay victims and was “indispensable to the operation and concealment of the Epstein trafficking enterprise.” Lawyers for JPMorgan did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday. In the past, they have said victims are entitled to justice but litigation attempting to blame the financial institution for Epstein’s actions were legally meritless, directed at the wrong party and should be dismissed. Also Read: Elon Musk’s Tesla tweet trial delves into investor damages Authorities alleged that Epstein recruited and sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s. He had pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for the Virgin Islands told a federal judge Monday that they haven't been able to locate Musk to serve him with the subpoena. They asked the court to serve Tesla, his electric vehicle company, instead. They said they hired an investigative firm to search public records databases for possible addresses for Musk and reached out to one of his lawyers by email, but received no response. A message sent to a lawyer for Musk seeking comment Monday was not immediately returned. The subpoena — one of several sent to prominent business figures — sought documents from Jan. 1, 2002, to the present reflecting communications between Musk and JPMorgan or Musk and Epstein regarding Epstein or Epstein’s role in Musk’s accounts, transactions or financial management. It also sought all documents reflecting or regarding Epstein’s involvement in human trafficking and his procurement of girls or women for commercial sex. And it sought information about fees Musk might have paid to Epstein or JPMorgan and any documents concerning communications between Musk, Epstein and JPMorgan regarding accounts, transactions or the relationship at JPMorgan.
The public school district in Seattle has filed a novel lawsuit against the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the mental health crisis among youth. Seattle Public Schools filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court. The 91-page complaint says the social media companies have created a public nuisance by targeting their products to children. It blames them for worsening mental health and behavioral disorders including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying; making it more difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers. “Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the complaint said. “Worse, the content Defendants curate and direct to youth is too often harmful and exploitive ....” Meta, Google, Snap and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday. While federal law — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — helps protect online companies from liability arising from what third-party users post on their platforms, the lawsuit argues that provision does not protect the tech giants' behavior in this case. “Plaintiff is not alleging Defendants are liable for what third-parties have said on Defendants’ platforms but, rather, for Defendants’ own conduct,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants affirmatively recommend and promote harmful content to youth, such as pro-anorexia and eating disorder content." Also Read: Musk says he can't get fair trial in California, wants Texas The lawsuit says that from 2009 to 2019, there was on average a 30% increase in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who reported feeling “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row" that they stopped doing some typical activities. The school district is asking the court to order the companies to stop creating the public nuisance, to award damages, and to pay for prevention education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media. While hundreds of families are pursuing lawsuits against the companies over harms they allege their children have suffered from social media, it's not clear if any other school districts have filed a complaint like Seattle's. Internal studies revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 showed that the company knew that Instagram negatively affected teenagers by harming their body image and making eating disorders and thoughts of suicide worse. She alleged that the platform prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.
After an explosive six-week libel trial followed by millions on social media and live TV, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard each face an uphill battle: trying to rebuild their images and careers. Depp already has a head start, with a jury verdict Wednesday largely favoring his narrative, that his ex-wife defamed him by accusing him of abusing her. “Depp has a hill to climb. Heard has a mountain to climb,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis mitigator in Washington with no involvement in the case. “If Depp keeps his expectations proportional and understands that he’s unlikely to hit his former heights, he can have a solid career if he takes things slowly. After all, he was vindicated in court, not declared a saint.” The challenge for Heard, Dezenhall said, is that rightly or wrongly, some believe she abused and perhaps even tarnished a worthy movement, #MeToo. With a he said-she said edge to the drawn-out trial, the verdict handed down in Fairfax County, Virginia, found that Depp had been defamed by three statements in a 2018 op-ed piece written by Heard, who identified herself as an abuse victim. The jury awarded the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star more than $10 million. Jurors also concluded Heard was defamed, by a lawyer for Depp who accused her of creating a hoax surrounding the abuse allegations. She was awarded $2 million. Given that such cases are notoriously hard to win, was the defamation route the way to go? Some observers with experience in high-profile cases believe Depp's decision to sue — even though it meant dragging his and Heard's personal lives through the mud — was a last-ditch attempt to bolster his star power after his failed London libel lawsuit against The Sun for describing him as a “wife beater." Also read: Depp and Heard face uncertain career prospects after trial “I think the defamation case was a Hail Mary,” said David Glass, a Los Angeles family law attorney with a Ph.D in psychology. Married just 15 months, Depp sued Heard for $50 million over the op-ed for The Washington Post in which she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” She didn't identify Depp by name and it was published two years after she began making public accusations against him. Heard countersued for $100 million, accusing the star of defaming her via the hoax accusations of attorney Adam Waldman. Many of the waning days of the trial focused on the aftereffects of both claims, with Depp testifying: “I lost nothing less than everything" and Heard accusing him of trying to erase her ability to work. “Now as I stand here today, I can’t have a career,” Heard testified at the close of the trial. “I hope to get my voice back. That’s all I want.” But does a verdict of any kind hold the power to reverse the courtroom accusations: of Depp as a physically and sexually abusive aging drunk and drug addict, and Heard as unhinged and capable of faking bruises allegedly inflicted by the man she said she stayed with out of love? Despite it all, Depp's fan base remains solid. Fans often camped out overnight for the chance to attend proceedings. But unlike rockers and stand-up comedians ensnared in #MeToo moments who can still earn through live shows, Depp and Heard need the crisis-averse studio machines to make big money. Rehabilitation is necessary for both, whether it's dueling traditional sit-down interviews or another secret weapon in their PR teams' arsenals. Also read: Jury sides with Johnny Depp in libel case, awards him $10M Heard, who was in the room for Wednesday's verdict, plans to appeal. Depp, who wasn't in court, said “the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.” Danny Deraney, who's done crisis PR for some of Hollywood’s #MeToo accusers, said men in general are more likely than women to find new work in the entertainment industry "when it comes to forgiveness and when it comes to the things that they’ve done.” He added: “I think it’s going to be easier for Johnny. For Amber, whether she’s innocent or guilty or whatever it is, it’s going to be difficult. I don’t think her career is necessarily over. But I’m sure it’s going to take a nice hit because I think everyone now is going to look at her as a difficult woman to work with, seeing her emotions the way they’ve been, whether wrong or right. I think they’re going to look at that and say, ‘Do we want this on our set?’” Danielle Lindemann, a Lehigh University associate professor of sociology who researches gender, sexuality and culture, said Depp's ability to earn big had already been affected, whether due to his own self-destruction or fallout from Heard's accusations. “But I don’t think he’s 'canceled,'” said Lindemann, author of “True Story: What Reality Says About Us.” The damage to his career is also likely to be a lot less severe in Asian and European markets, where his popularity remains strong. And he is likely to still get work on indie productions like those that helped along his 38-year run. Since the former couple began slinging allegations, Heard has faced intense backlash on social media. She said Depp fueled campaigns to get her fired as an ambassador for L'Oreal and cut as the character Mera from an “Aquaman” sequel, though a production executive testified she remains in the film due out next year. Mads Mikkelsen replaced Depp as Gellert Grindelwald for “Fantastic Beasts 3.” Depp's future is also uncertain in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, something he blamed on Heard's allegations. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has revealed that two more “Pirates” scripts are in development, but neither will include Depp’s Capt. Jack Sparrow, a role that earned the actor an Oscar nomination. His last appearance in the Disney-owned franchise was in 2017’s “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Dior has long used Depp to promote a men's fragrance, Sauvage. The fashion house has been silent on the abuse allegations and is still using him in ads. Attorney Brett Ward, a family law specialist in New York, said it could take years to know whether Depp's case will eventually lead to his return as an A-list actor. "And if he doesn’t? I think he’s made a terrible mistake because most people aren’t going to remember his rather distinguished Hollywood career. They’re going to remember this trial. It’s like O.J. Simpson. People know him more for what happened in that trial than they did for his football career.” Dezenhall disagreed. He said the case that captured the world's attention might just be a bellwether for people and corporations facing existential threats to their reputations and livelihoods. The old logic that bringing defamation suits was riskier than any benefits no longer necessarily applies, he said. They're too hard to win because proving malice is so tricky, traditional thinking went. Why publicly recycle the negative when people are likely to forget? Today, he said, the stakes have become too high to avoid such defamation court fights. He wrote on Substack, “If you’re already covered in muck that is suspended online forever, what’s a little more muck if your life has been ruined?”
A federal magistrate judge in Nevada has sided with Cristiano Ronaldo’s lawyers against a woman who sued for more than the $375,000 in hush money she received in 2010 after saying the international soccer star raped her in Las Vegas. In a scathing recommendation to the judge hearing the case, Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts on Wednesday blamed Kathryn Mayorga’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, for inappropriately basing the civil damages lawsuit on leaked and stolen documents shown to be privileged communications between Ronaldo and his lawyers. “Dismissing Mayorga’s case for the inappropriate conduct of her attorney is a harsh result,” the magistrate wrote in his 23-page report to U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey. “But it is, unfortunately, the only appropriate sanction to ensure the integrity of the judicial process.” Also read: Will Cristiano Ronaldo be Able to Revive Manchester United's Glory? “Stovall has acted in bad faith to his client’s — and his profession’s — detriment,” Albregts decided. Stovall and other attorneys in his office did not immediately respond Thursday to telephone and email messages about Albregt’s report. A date for Dorsey to take up the recommendation was not immediately set. Ronaldo’s attorney in Las Vegas, Peter Christiansen, issued a statement calling Ronaldo’s legal team “pleased with the court’s detailed review ... and its willingness to justly apply the law to the facts and recommend dismissal of the civil case against Mr. Ronaldo.” The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall and attorney Larissa Drohobyczer to make her name public. Albregts noted the court did not find that Ronaldo committed a crime and found no evidence his attorneys and representatives “intimidated Mayorga or impeded law enforcement” when Mayorga dropped criminal charges and finalized the $375,000 confidential settlement in August 2010. Ronaldo, now 36, is one of the most recognizable and highly paid players in sports. He has captained his home country soccer team, Portugal, and plays for the English Premier League club Manchester United. He spent several years playing in Italy for the Turin-based club Juventus. Also read: Ronaldo reportedly breaks coronavirus rules on 2-day break Mayorga, 37, is a former teacher and model who lives in the Las Vegas area. She said in her lawsuit filed first in state court and moved to federal court that Ronaldo or his associates violated the confidentiality agreement by allowing reports about it to appear in European publications in 2017. She seeks to collect at least $200,000 more from Ronaldo. She met Ronaldo at a nightclub in June 2009 and went with him and other people to his hotel suite, where she said he assaulted her in a bedroom, according to the lawsuit. She was 25 at the time. He was 24. Ronaldo’s attorneys have acknowledged the soccer star and Mayorga had sex, but said it consensual and not rape. Mayorga went to Las Vegas police, but the investigation was dropped at the time because Mayorga neither identified her alleged attacker by name nor said where the incident took place, Steve Wolfson, the elected prosecutor in Las Vegas, said in 2019. Wolfson decided not to file criminal charges based on a new investigation by Las Vegas police in 2018 because he said too much time had passed and evidence failed to show that Mayorga’s accusation could be proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Word of the financial settlement became public after the German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article in 2017 titled “Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from “whistleblower portal Football Leaks.” “The article makes it clear that these documents included privileged communications ... between Ronaldo’s European and U.S. attorneys about the settlement,” Albregts wrote. Stovall “acted in bad faith by asking for, receiving, and using the Football Leaks documents to prosecute Mayorga’s case,” the magistrate judge found. “Although Stovall never received — or even sought — an ethics opinion ... he had multiple opportunities to recognize the privileged nature of the documents, starting with the 2017 Der Spiegel article, which quotes privileged communications.” Albregts rejected Stovall’s argument that using the documents was justified because Stovall wasn’t the one who stole them and he couldn’t prove they were stolen. The attorney’s efforts to make confidential documents public through court filings were “audacious,” “impertinent” and “abusive,” the magistrate said. Albregts recommended Dorsey also dismiss Stovall’s claim that because Mayorga had learning disabilities as a child and was pressured by Ronaldo’s representatives she lacked the mental capacity to sign the 2010 confidentiality agreement. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled early this year that it would be up to Dorsey to decide that question. “Mayorga's case against Ronaldo would probably not exist had Stovall not asked for the Football Leaks documents,” Albregts wrote, and Mayorga’s knowledge of the documents’ contents "cannot be undone.” “There is no possible way for this case to proceed where the court cannot tell what arguments and testimony are based on these privileged documents,” he said.
A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that alleged James Franco intimidated students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations, attorneys for the plaintiffs said Saturday.
A legal fight by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo against a Nevada woman who wants more than the $375,000 she received in a rape case hush-money settlement in 2010 should be decided by an arbitrator, not in a courtroom, a U.S. magistrate judge said Tuesday.
A former Penn State football player claims in a lawsuit that Nittany Lions players hazed him and other younger teammates by imitating sexual acts in the shower and invoking Jerry Sandusky's name.
A Myanmar delegation led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi left for the Hague to defend the nation at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Sunday.