After years of trench warfare in the courts, the former CAA boss now has a date to face a judge and jury. A February 29 trial date in Deadline’s film editor Anita Busch’s case against Mike Ovitz has been set by L.A. Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle. Before that there are a few more hurdles, with a motion of summary adjudication on pleading issues set for November 2 and a final status conference is scheduled for January 29. However, unless some sort of settlement is achieved, it is likely the trial will start in late February. If Ovitz loses, he could find himself paying out damages in the millions of dollars.
First filed in May 2004, the suit launched off a June 20, 2002, incident in which a dead fish and a rose were put on the damaged front window of then-L.A. Times reporter Busch’s car with the scrawled message “STOP.” The subsequent investigation — with allegations of computer hacking, illegal wiretapping, threats and harassment — eventually ended up at the feet of private investigator Anthony Pellicano, who was working of behalf of Ovitz.
After a series of unsuccessful attempts to slip out of the case and failed summary judgment motions, the ex-Disney president found himself out of options last year when Berle ruled against Ovitz’s statute of limitations defense. That April 3, 2014, ruling essentially set the clock ticking for the trial finally being put on the calendar.
Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 and is serving a 15-year prison term in Texas. While rejecting the bulk of his latest appeal, late last month the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated portions of Pellicano’s sentence after tossing his convictions on computer fraud and hacking. That doesn’t mean Pellicano is getting out of jail before 2019, just that a trial judge must re-sentence him.
In the Busch matter, the accusation has been that Ovitz was behind Pellicano’s harassment and intimidation of Busch due to his dislike of stories being written and pursued about him. Tape recordings unearthed in the investigation of Pellicano revealed conversations between Ovitz and the investigator in which the former was complaining strongly about being in such a media spotlight.
Still, back in 2012, Ovitz’s attorneys sought to have him removed from the case because they said Busch’s initial complaint’s designation of the ex-exec as “Doe” was fraudulent. The lawyers claimed that the journalist was not unaware of Ovitz’s identity, as she had said in prior court filings. Busch filed an amended complaint back in November 2006 naming Ovitz in the matter.
Ian Herzog and Evan Marshall of the Law Offices Of Ian Herzog are representing Busch in the case.