Bobby Womack settles royalties lawsuit that alleged fraud, financial elder abuse

Mar 26, 2013

LOS ANGELES – Singer/songwriter Bobby Womack and a businessman who has lent money to many recording artists have settled the musician’s lawsuit alleging he was duped into selling the rights to his work of the past 40 years for a minimal sum.

Lawyers for Womack filed a notice of settlement March 14 with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White. The terms were not divulged.

Womack sued Parviz Omidvar and his company Music Royalty Consulting Inc., in February 2012. His allegations included fraud, restitution of contract and financial elder abuse.

In their court papers, attorneys for Omidvar called the suit “a simple case of buyer’s remorse.”  The lawyers said Womack knew what he was doing when he entered the agreement and that he received “substantial monies” from Omidvar. The 69-year-old Womack alleged Omidvar conned him into taking $40,000 in exchange for royalties for such Womack creations as “It’s All Over Now,” which became a hit for the Rolling Stones. Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Womack got loans from Omidvar about 15 times in the previous 25 years and trusted him because of their previous business relationships, the suit stated. So, Womack contacted Omidvar for another loan two years ago, the suit stated.

The suit maintained Womack signed the contract in April 2011 when he was suffering from ailments ranging from prostate cancer to dementia. The surgery for the cancer was followed by a “morphine-induced” two-week stay in a hospital, the suit stated.

Womack also was taking 17 prescribed medicines at the time, according to the suit. Even Omidvar observed that Womack “looked dizzy and was staggering” and had swollen legs, the suit stated. Yet, he presented the agreement to Womack despite the plaintiff’s condition and his knowledge that the musician was heavily medicated, the suit states.

After the signing. Omidvar told his secretary to have Womack’s daughter pen her name as a witness to her father’s signing, the suit stated. The daughter was rushed into signing the document and later realized it wrongly stated she had witnessed her father’s signing, according to the suit.

After consulting with his attorneys, Womack tried to rescind the agreement and return the $40,000 check to Omidvar, but the businessman refused in both instances, the suit stated.

Omidvar’s past clients include the late Michael Jackson.

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Michael Jackson wrongful death lawsuit: Judge allows for Conrad Murray testimony, 2005 molestation trial drug abuse

Mar 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A judge today left open the door for Dr. Conrad Murray to testify in the trial of a civil suit by Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, who alleges AEG Live negligently hired him to care for her son before his never-realized London concerts.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos also said attorneys for the entertainment conglomerate can bring before the jury evidence of Jackson’s 2005 trial and acquittal of child molestation charges. She said the information could be relevant to the singer’s history of despondency and drug abuse.

Attorneys for Katherine Jackson said the fact her son was found not guilty of molestation supported their position the information should be kept out.     The entertainer was set to perform a string of 50 shows in London, but died on June 25, 2009, at age 50, of acute propofol intoxication at his rented home in Holmby Hills while rehearsing for the sold-out concert series.

His mother sued in September 2010 on behalf of her son’s three children, Michael Jr., Paris-Michael Katherine and Prince Michael, claiming that the company was liable for picking Murray to be pop star’s personal physician. Jury selection is scheduled April 2 and the attorneys estimated the trial will last two to three months.

Thursday’s rulings took place on a day a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal denied a request by AEG Live to put the trial on hold while the judge’s Feb. 28 decision to allow the case to go forth on a negligent hiring cause of action was revisited.

Murray was on the original list of prospective witnesses to be called by the plaintiffs. However, Katherine Jackson’s attorney, Kevin Boyle, said the doctor’s lawyers told him the doctor would assert his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify. Boyle said Murray’s attorneys asked that he thus not be called to the stand in the civil suit.

However, AEG Live attorney Jessica Stebbins Bina said Murray could be helpful as a defense witness because he has said on record that Jackson hired him, not AEG Live. She also said he cannot assert his right against self- incrimination on every question and that his answers to inquiries where the Fifth Amendment does not apply can be heard by the civil trial jury.

Murray retains his Fifth Amendment protection through the course of his appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction in Jackson’s death. He was sentenced in November 2011 to four years in the Los Angeles County Men’s jail.

Palazuelos also said AEG Live attorneys can tell the jury that nurse anesthetist David Fournier twice said that he believed Jackson deceived him by not revealing he had a Narcan implant inserted in his body before a surgical procedure in which Fournier assisted. Fournier said he believed Jackson did not reveal the information out of fear the nurse would not administer anesthesia to him.

The implant is designed to block the brain’s opiate receptors.

The judge also ruled Katherine Jackson’s lawyers can mention Jackson’s possible inebriation on the eve of the March 2009 announcement of the London concert tours to show AEG Live allegedly knew Murray was not properly caring for Jackson.

Palazuelos additionally said Katherine Jackson can be quizzed by AEG Live lawyers as to why she and her attorneys decided not to sue Murray. AEG Live attorneys maintain she chose not to do so because he has limited finances.

But the judge said Jackson’s children cannot be questioned regarding the decision not to sue Murray.

Kathryn Cahan, another AEG Live attorney, told Palazuelos that Prince Michael said in a recent deposition that he does not blame Murray for his father’s death and considers him “a good person.”

In yet another ruling, Palazuelos said Katherine Jackson’s lawyers cannot present evidence about Murray visiting strip clubs the week of Jackson’s death because it would be prejudicial to AEG Live. However, she said the plaintiffs’ attorneys can present information about the doctor having financial problems from overdue child support payments.

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Judge: ‘Superman’ belongs to Warner Bros.

Mar 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES  –  Warner Bros. has scored another victory in the legal battle over the rights to the Superman character.

A Los Angeles federal judge ruled that the heirs of co-creator Jerry Siegel are bound by a 2001 agreement over ownership of the Man of Steel, according to court papers obtained today.

The written decision by U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II, dated Wednesday, affirms a January finding by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal that the 12-year-old settlement giving Warner Bros. ownership rights over the character is binding.

The appellate panel determined that a different judge had erred by ruling in favor of Siegel’s heirs, who challenged the validity of the settlement and demanded more ownership rights over the character.

The panel ruled, however, that the judge, who subsequently resigned from the bench, “failed to address whether the October 19, 2001, letter from (Laura Siegel Larson’s) then-attorney constituted acceptance of terms negotiated between the parties, and thus was sufficient to create a contract.”

“We hold, as a matter of law, that the October 19, 2001, letter did constitute such an acceptance,” the ruling states.

The panel noted that the letter included five pages of terms outlining compensation for the heirs and the rights to the character.

Warner Bros. plans to release the latest Superman film, titled “Man of Steel,” this summer.

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Columbia Pictures, Paramount, Disney win in federal appeals court against Canadian search engine

Mar 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appeals panel in Pasadena Thursday issued a unanimous decision against the Canadian search engine isoHunt for “inducing” users to illegally download and distribute copyrighted movies and TV programs.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that isoHunt owner Gary Fung is liable for contributing to violations of federal copyright law.

Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount and other Hollywood studios sued Fung in Los Angeles federal court in 2006, alleging that isoHunt and other sites Fung operated helped Internet users find and watch copyrighted material without charge.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson granted the film companies summary judgment in 2009 and issued an injunction limiting Fung’s activities.

The appeals court affirmed Wilson’s ruling that Fung and isoHunt committed copyright infringement by helping users access copyrighted shows over the BitTorrent peer-to-peer network.

Further, the appellate court held that isoHunt and Fung were not protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

“This ruling affirms a core principle of copyright law: Those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Henry Hoberman, senior executive vice president and global general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America.

“It also strikes an important blow in the fight to preserve the jobs of millions of workers in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by rogue websites for their own profit,” Hoberman said.

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Fox announces O.J. Simpson trial miniseries

Mar 21, 2013

HOLLYWOOD  – A potential miniseries on the O.J. Simpson trial is under development at Fox Broadcasting, the network announced today.

The project has the working title, “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” is based on the 1997 book of the same name by Jeffrey Toobin. The script is being written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, whose credits include the scripts for the films  “The People vs. Larry Flint,” “Man on the Moon” and “Ed Wood.”

The producers are Nina Jacobson, a producer of “The Hunger Games” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and Brad Simpson, who also produced “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and the upcoming Brad Pitt-starring zombie film “World War Z.”

Fox also announced today it is developing a miniseries on James Clavell’s 1975 novel on 17th century feudal Japan, “Shogun.” NBC aired a 12- hour miniseries adaptation of “Shogun” in 1980 that received 14 Emmy nominations and three Emmys.

“These are both epic stories — one fiction, one fact — that have captivated millions of people worldwide,” said Shana C. Waterman, Fox Broadcasting Company’s senior vice president, event series & multi-platform programming.

“They’re riveting and emotional, with unique historic backdrops that lend themselves to the high-quality, dramatic event series we’re looking to make.”

Fox announced earlier it is developing potential miniseries based on the novel “Pines” and “Blood Brothers” on the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 1861, whose members fought on both sides in the Civil War.

Fox will order its first miniseries later this season, which will be aired in 2014.

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Restraining order issued between Conrad Murray attorneys after jailhouse, doughnut shop altercations

Mar 21, 2013

PASADENA  – An attorney who ended his representation of Dr. Conrad Murray after a heated jailhouse altercation with his co-counsel has obtained a temporary restraining order against the woman, alleging she threw hot water at him at a doughnut shop.

Last Thursday, Pasadena Superior Court Judge Terry Smerling directed Valerie Wass not to come within 200 yards of Michael Flanagan, his business and his car. She also was directed not to harass or intimidate him.

A hearing on whether to extend the order is scheduled April 3.

Flanagan had been assisting Wass, who is working as Murray’s appellate attorney, seeking to overturn his November 2011 involuntary manslaughter conviction in the June 2009 death of pop star Michael Jackson.

The two attorneys, along with Flanagan’s son, were involved in a physical and verbal altercation at the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail in Los Angeles in January as they were visiting Murray, where the doctor is serving a four-year sentence.

Wass filed a police report alleging Flanagan’s son pushed her, according to media reports.

According to court papers filed by Flanagan’s lawyer, Charles Unger, Wass confronted Flanagan on March 8 at a Winchell’s doughnut shop on Lake Avenue.

“Miss Wass came into Winchell’s … yelling gross profanities and threw a scalding hot container of coffee at my face and torso,” Flanagan stated in his court papers. “I was slightly burned by the coffee and also incurred property damage to clothing.”

Wass told a reporter afterward that she “should have shot me,” Flanagan’s court papers state.

Wass also has “stalked” Flanagan other times at Winchell’s, at Crispy’s Deli in Glendale and at the jail, Flanagan’s court papers state. She also has been “relentless with obscene emails to my office,” Flanagan’s court papers state.

Flanagan alleges the situation has gotten worse over time.

“In each of these incidents she used physical force and extreme profanity,” Flanagan states. “Each incident is getting progressively more violent.”

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9th Circuit Appeals Court rules against Universal Music Group in copyright lawsuit

Mar 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – A federal appellate panel today affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of copyright infringement claims brought by Universal Music Group against an online video-sharing site.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, for the second time, a 2009 Los Angeles federal judge’s finding that Santa Monica-based Veoh Networks is federally protected from liability claims.

District Judge Raymond C. Fisher, who also penned the panel’s 2011 ruling, wrote that Veoh was protected by “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which shields Internet service providers that unknowingly post copyrighted material and act expeditiously to remove it once alerted.

The San Francisco appellate panel previously found that it is up to copyright holders like UMG to “efficiently identify infringing copies” rather than leaving it to providers like Veoh, which “cannot readily ascertain what material is copyrighted and what is not.”

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Case of missing Fox film executive becomes homicide investigation

Mar 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – Authorities announced Thursday that the disappearance of Fox film executive Gavin Smith is being investigated as a homicide, although his body has not been found.

The 57-year-old former UCLA basketball player hasn’t been seen since leaving a female friend’s home off Kanan Road in eastern Ventura County between 9 and 10 p.m. on May 1, 2012, in his black, 2000-model Mercedes-Benz 420 E, authorities said.

Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Dolson said Smith’s Mercedes was recovered on Feb. 21 at a storage facility in Simi Valley.

“The storage facility has been linked to John Creech, who is currently in custody at Men’s Central Jail on an unrelated narcotics conviction,” Dolson said.

Last June, a SWAT team and detectives raided a West Hills home owned by Creech. The Los Angeles Times reported afterward that it had obtained documents that indicated sheriff’s deputies felt an unspecified felony related to Smith’s disappearance may have occurred there.

Smith had reportedly met Creech’s wife, Chandrika Creech, in some sort of rehab therapy, according to the newspaper.

Dolson said today that after detectives found Smith’s car, they served several search warrants in the San Fernando Valley “in furtherance of the investigation.”

“Based on the vehicle’s condition and information developed from persons cooperating in the investigation, homicide detectives are now investigating this case as a homicide,” Dolson said.

“Detectives are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the person or persons involved in moving Gavin’s car from the Porter Ranch area in the San Fernando Valley to the storage facility in the Simi Valley on or about May 8 or 9, 2012,” Dolson said.

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‘Top Gun’ director’s estate rejects million-dollar claim by talent agency

Mar 15, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – The estate of the late director Tony Scott has rejected a claim of more than $1 million from Creative Artists Agency.

After the “Top Gun” director jumped to his death off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro Aug. 10, he allegedly had not paid $1,040,522 owed to the noted talent agency, which filed a demand for payment in Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 28.

However, last Friday the claim was turned down by R. Dennis Luderer, the personal representative of the Scott estate. No reason was given for the rejection.

Luderer’s court papers state that the value of the Scott estate is $1.25 million.

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Developing videogames at USC ranks top of Princeton Review for 4th consecutive year

Mar 12, 2013

LOS ANGELES  – USC’s videogame-design graduate program continued to score big points in an annual ranking released today by The Princeton Review, finishing atop a list of more than 100 North American schools.

Conducted jointly by USC’s film and engineering schools, the 10-year-old graduate program has earned the top spot all four years The Princeton Review has conducted its rankings. USC’s undergraduate program was ranked second behind the University of Utah.

The USC program includes a one-year games course, called USC Games, in which students work with faculty to develop their dream game and present it to industry professionals. Students in the USC Games course have gone on to develop such games as “Modern Warfare 3,” “Journey,” “The Unfinished Swan” and “Farmville,” according to the university.

The Princeton Review’s 2012-13 rankings cap a year in which the work of several USC alumni garnered critical acclaim and awards, including Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany, who developed the award-winning “Journey,” a game in which players control a mysterious character as it explores a glistening, dune-filled landscape.

Tracy Fullerton, USC’s Electronic Arts endowed chair of the Interactive Media and Games Division, called it a “banner year” for the program, “with some outstanding new faculty joining us from industry, our brand new interactive building, the 10th anniversary of the program and the amazing achievements of our alumni like those at thatgamecompany, who won eight D.I.C.E. awards last month. It’s all very gratifying to see how our efforts are having real impact for our students and in the industry.”

Each year, The Princeton Review releases two lists ranking graduate and undergraduate schools based on a report from each institution detailing the curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure, career services, student scholarships and financial aid.

The only other California school on either list this year was UC Santa Cruz for its graduate game design program.

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