They took their time and had the case moved to federal court but today Universal, Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Grey, Legendary Pictures Funding, Dr Dre, Ice Cube and more dropped the mic on former N.W.A manager Gerald Heller’s defamation, misappropriation of likeness and copyright infringement lawsuit. With two separate filings Wednesday claiming First Amendment and anti-SLAPP protection, the defendants call Heller’s first amended complaint of last month “a hodgepodge of conclusory allegations and subjective interpretations of the Film.”
“As in his initial Complaint, Plaintiff still fails to identify the allegedly defamatory statements in the Film on which he bases his claims, and does not explain how each named Defendant is purportedly responsible for any such statements,” says the unsurprising motion by Greenberg Traurig attorneys to dismiss Heller’s claims (read it here). The Straight Outta Compton defendants have asked for a hearing on March 28 on their double-your-luck motions in what started out as a $110 million lawsuit back on October 30 last year in L.A. Superior Court.
In the motion to dismiss the first 10-claims of the FAC, Universal and gang hold the notoriously hard-nosed Heller to the legal fire. “Plaintiff’s improper ‘group pleading,’ and failure to identify the allegedly false statements in the Film, are especially egregious given his constitutional obligation to allege facts demonstrating the ‘actual malice’ of each Defendant sued for defamation and related injurious falsehood claims,” says the anti-SLAPP filing (read it here).
Then as now, Heller did not like the way he was depicted as a “sleazy manager,” as his original complaint said, in the hit movie of what was once called the most dangerous group in the world. In their anti-SLAPP motion, the defendants say prove it. Or rather, they say you can’t prove it because the film comes with a disclaimer that it is a dramatization, it doesn’t show the Paul Giamatti-portrayed Heller doing anything illegal and different people have different memories of how things really went down.
“The Film is a docudrama chronicling a decade-long story from 1986 to 1996 of the pioneering rap record company, Ruthless Records, the rise and demise of Ruthless Records’ extremely successful musical group, N.W.A, and the careers and personal relationships of members of N.W.A,” asserts the motion. “Plaintiff’s theory that he has been defamed, or his image has been misappropriated, by the depiction of the “Jerry Heller” character in the Film,” it adds. Because these claims fall directly within the scope of protection afforded by the anti-SLAPP statute, the burden is shifted to Plaintiff Gerald E. Heller (‘Plaintiff’ or ‘Heller’) to demonstrate a ‘probability’ of prevailing on his claims. Plaintiff cannot meet this burden.”
Ouch! Add to that the defendants say they want Heller to pay their legal fees.
Heller is represented by Michael Richard Shapiro of Los Angeles.