In a ruling that sets the stage for a courtroom showdown between Mike Ovitz and Deadline’s film editor Anita Busch, a LA Superior Court judge ruled against the former CAA co-owner’s statute of limitations defense in the longstanding Anthony Pellicano case.”Ovitz has not met his burden to demonstrate that, at the time of filing the original Complaint in May of 2004, Plaintiff had knowledge of actual facts to cause a reasonable person to believe that liability on the part of Ovitz for the torts alleged was probable,” said Judge Elihu M Berle in today’s ruling (read it here).
This goes back to the June 20, 2002, incident where Busch, working for the Los Angeles Times, found a dead fish and rose on her damaged windshield with the scrawled message “STOP”. Busch alleged other instances of harassment, computer hacking, illegal wiretapping and threats. This led back to private investigator Pellicano, and what became one of the largest illegal wiretapping case in the history of the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI.
On October 31, 2012, Ovitz tried to get his alleged part in the case tossed, contending that Busch’s original complaint’s designation of Ovitz as “Doe” was fraudulent because she was not ignorant of his true identity as she claimed in prior court filings. That legal move would have allowed Ovitz to slip through Busch’s November 6, 2006, “Doe” amendment to her original May 28, 2004, complaint, and out of the case. In late January 2013, the court denied Ovitz’s summary judgment motion. Ovitz tried another legal maneuver, filing a motion for a separate trial on statute of limitation defenses on May 21, 2013. On June 21, the court ruled that this matter did not warrant a separate jury trial to focus on that technicality. Today’s ruling, which comes after a short non-jury trial, now will put the entire case before a judge in L.A. Superior Court.
In response to Ovitz’s claim that Busch wasn’t in fact unaware of the true identity of “Doe,” Judge Berle called her “a highly credible witness.” Busch’s longtime attorney Ian Herzog called the decision “a great win for Anita. She has been through a terrible ordeal, to have her life threatened the way it was, and all of the bad things that happened after, which led her to find out the true evildoer here was Michael Ovitz. Now we have the chance to prove he was the true enabler behind Pellicano. Without enablers, guys like Pellicano couldn’t act in the thuggish manner in which they do, to threaten and violate someone like Anita. Now we’re going to have a chance to prove it was Ovitz.”
Herzog said there is plenty of ammunition to bolster his case.
“You should listen to the New York Times recording of a conversation Ovitz had with Pellicano, a few weeks before she was threatened,” Herzog said. “His response to negative newspaper articles that Anita and Bernie Weinraub was that this was the worst week of his life and that he needed Pellicano. That is in a tape that was played in open court and received in evidence. The tape was attached to a New York Times article in 2006. After she was threatened and it was discovered that Pellicano was behind it, they served the search warrants that resulted in them finding explosives and wiretapping tapes. One of those tapes was this one.”
Asked if this constituted the smoking gun, Herzog said, “I think so. Smoking or blazing. Take your pick.”
Ovitz’s attorney, Eric M. George, had a decidedly different read on today’s development.
“Today’s ruling dealt solely with the timeliness of Anita Busch’s claims,” George told Deadline. “Michael Ovitz provided no testimony in the course of this proceeding. When there is a trial on the merits, we will prove that Michael never did – and under no conceivable circumstances ever would – countenance any attack on any other person.”
Ian Herzog and Evan Marshall of the Law Offices Of Ian Herzog represent Busch. Attorney Eric M. George of the LA offices of Brown George Ross represents Ovitz.