Well, this is bizarre. Fired Los Angeles Times editorial pages editor Andrés Martinez today sued his ex-girlfriend Kelly Mullens of the entertainment PR firm 42West over Grazergate from March 2007. (My thanks to LAObserved‘s Kevin Roderick for alerting me…) mullens3.jpgTonight, Mullens’ lawyer told me that Martinez, who now works for a Washington DC think tank, had been threatening this LA Superior Court lawsuit for some time, all the way back to April when Mullens obtained a temporary restraining order against Martinez earlier this year. (See below for why she felt the need for it…)

Martinez in the lawsuit says he and Mullens dated from September 2005 until they broke up in July 2007 after Grazergate, then reconciled, then broke up again in December 2007. But his complaint focuses on Mullens’ insistence on publicizing mega-producer Brian Grazer’s short-lived stint as the guest editor of the Sunday Currents section. Martinez alleges that he asked Mullens not to get involved, and she agreed, because of the seeming impropriety of his selecting one of her clients at the same time they were having a romantic relationship. But Martinez is claiming she went back on her promise to him. A bad situation for him turned even worse when Martinez lost his job at the LA Times. Now folks at Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, which fired 42West because of the embarrassmen to the producer, will probably be deposed. An unhappy insider said this to me about the lawsuit, “Martinez should get a therapist, not a lawyer.”

Even though Martinez has the very prestigious firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp on board, I still feel the need to second guess the lawsuit since I reported extensively on Grazergate when it broke. logo_latimes.gifFirst, it was Mullen’s 42West boss Allan Mayer who not only suggested Grazer to Martinez in the first place but also was doing PR for Grazer’s company Imagine and its film American GangsterSo, of course, Mullens got involved, and it would be naive to think she wouldn’t since she has been Mayer’s longtme junior exec. Martinez says he expected the LA Times to promote Grazer’s guest editorship. But it was the newspaper’s own decision to place Mullens’ name on its letterhead press release as the PR contact (and a surprise since the LA Times has in-house PR). Martinez claims he reasonably relied on Mullens’ promises and his reputation suffered “great and irreparable harm” due to Mullens’ actions. But, during Grazergate, Martinez wrote that Mullens “did nothing wrong”.

david_hiller1.jpgI say he has a better case against the Los Angeles Times. After all, it wasn’t just Martinez who approved of Grazer as guest editor but also his No. 2 Michael Newman and Current editor Nick Goldberg and their boss — publisher David Hiller, who admitted that he’d known about the Martinez-Mullens romantic relationship from July 2005 toand still gave the go-ahead to the producer’s guest gig. But only Martinez was fired. At the time, that seemed unfair. (Back then, I called for Hiller’s resignation not just for Grazergate but also for Rumsfeldsgate.) Instead Martinez was the lone victim of a tug-of-war between the paper’s newsroom worried about a cover-up and the editorial pages concerned about its independence. Hiller lost when the Grazer-edited Current was dumped and humiliating accounts of the whole mess written by the news side. So why is Martinez going after Mullens instead of the LA Times?

I think this is the reason: back on April 7th, I and a few other Los Angeles journalists were sent an anonymous email from an “Allan” that contained really icky allegations about Mullens’ professional life intersecting with her personal life. The message clearly demonstrated an insider’s knowledge of PR, so I was curious if the sender might be a competitor. But that didn’t explain why Mullens was being singled out, especially because she’s such a small fish in the flackery world. One source at the time told me that Mullens suspected the email was sent by Martinez because he was still mad that she had dumped him as her boyfriend. However, a different source told me that Martinez 1) denied he wrote or sent the email about Mullens, 2) claimed to have received an email containing similar-sounding personal and nasty stuff about himself, and 3) described Kelly in at least one phone call about the matter as a “consummate professional”. 

A week after the email about her was sent, Mullens obtained a temporary restraining order against Martinez in Washington DC Superior Court on April 14th ordering him to, among other things, stop sending emails about her to journalists and her workers at 42West and her mother. Her sworn affadvait that accompanied it is, quite simply, astonishing in its accusations that Martinez had harassed her with communications that had “grown more extreme, violent and suicidal” and abnormal behavior. 

Tonight, Mullens’ lawyer gave me this statement: “Andres Martinez has filed a meritless and clearly frivolous lawsuit in a sad attempt to retaliate against Ms. Mullens, who earlier this year obtained a restraining order against him because of his unstable behavior, threats, and harassment. This is part of a pattern of harassment by Mr. Martinez against Ms. Mullens which has gone on for a long time. Ms. Mullens will not be bullied by Mr. Martinez’s abuse of the legal system; she intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit and she is confident she will prevail.”

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