In the latest twist in Marilyn Manson’s battle against allegations of sexual crimes, Evan Rachel Wood is rejecting claims she coerced another woman into saying the shock rocker raped her, saying instead the accuser was pressured to recant.
“I never pressured or manipulated Ashley Morgan Smithline to make any accusations against Plaintiff Brian Warner, and I certainly never pressured or manipulated her to make accusations that were not true,” Wood said in a declaration filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court. “It was Ms. Smithline who first contacted me in March 2019,” the Westworld actress said in the document (read it here).
“Ms. Smithline has always told me that she was abused by Mr. Warner,” Woods bluntly added in the declaration.
The recent stark about-face by Smithline, a month after her 2021 lawsuit against Manson/Warner was dismissed by default, came as attorneys for the much-accused singer and Wood argued in court today over whether the model’s declaration should be allowed in Manson’s March 2022 case against his former fiancée and her abuse allegations.
After scolding Manson/Warner’s lawyers for not deposing Smithline earlier, Judge Teresa Beaudet told the assembled attorneys in Department 50 that she was denying the performer’s motion to have the model’s declaration entered into the case.
As various other cases against Manson settle or are tossed out, Wood’s lawyer Michael J. Kump had said in another filing yesterday that Smithline’s declaration is “inadmissible” and also asserts that any manipulation or pressure came from a source other than his activist client.
“In sum, Plaintiff asks this Court to believe that Smithline was somehow ‘pressured’ into making false accusations when other women shared their experiences with her and allegedly talked about repressed memories (even though Smithline was the one who reached out to Wood about Plaintiff’s abuse),” the Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley LLP partner wrote in a February 27 opposition motion (read it here). “But the real pressure Smithline faced was not to make allegations against Plaintiff—it was to retract them. Smithline’s declaration is therefore wholly unreliable,” he continues (italics are Kump’s). In the screengrabs accompanying Wood’s declaration, Smithline appears to indicate repeatedly that Manson’s lawyer Howard King has been trying to get in touch with her.
In the spotlight himself, King insists the focus should be on Wood.
“It is unsurprising that Evan Rachel Wood is desperately fighting to keep Ashley Smithline’s testimony out of court — because she knows the truth will expose her plot to manipulate the women who trusted her in order to destroy Brian Warner,” says the King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano partner before Tuesday’s hearing. “Brian Warner never abused anyone. Ashley Smithline has told the truth. It’s sadly predictable that Evan Rachel Wood — someone who has already filed a forged FBI letter under oath in other court proceedings — remains committed to not doing the same.”
Stepping aside for a second of who allegedly pressured who, there is no doubt that Smithline appears in Phoenix Rising, director Amy Berg’s film about Wood’s allegations against Manson and her decision to go public with the claims from their 2007-2010 relationship. Sitting at the heart of Manson’s suit against Wood, Phoenix Rising debuted at the virtual 2022 Sundance Film Festival and the two-part documentary premiered on HBO in the spring of that year – despite Manson’s best legal efforts to shut it down.
The year before, Smithline sued Manson in federal court for sexual assault, sexual battery, human trafficking and more stemming from their interactions between 2010-2013. At the time, Smithline detailed claims of a steady and escalating pattern of abuse from Manson, including choking and cutting her. As he has in all allegations against him, the “Beautiful People” singer has denied all claims.
Losing her own lawyer and missing key court deadlines, Smithline’s case collapsed in early January. Her accusations that it was Wood and her close associate Ashley Gore (a co-defendant in Manson’s case) who put notions of abuse in her head soon followed to further muddy the waters, as did Smithline’s own new declaration.
All of which obfuscates the situation even more, no matter whether Smithline’s declaration was entered in to the case in support of Manson’s moves again Wood’s anti-SLAPP moves or not, the latter’s lawyer predicted.
“Unfortunately, the headlines that Smithline has recanted her accusations against Plaintiff will unjustly boost Plaintiff’s reputation even if his ex parte is denied,” noted Kump in his own motion Monday.
“Indeed, those headlines will likely impact public opinion even after the Smithline declaration is wholly discredited,” the attorney added. “And it will be discredited. Documented evidence shows that it was Smithline who reached out to Wood about Plaintiff’s abuse more than a year before Smithline now claims Defendants somehow convinced her that she was abused. Plaintiff has therefore failed to meet his burden to demonstrate good cause for the relief sought.”
Manson’s 2022 lawsuit against Wood came just more than a year after the Emmy nominee went online and called out her now-54-year-old ex for “horrifically” abusing and “grooming” during their three-year relationship – which took place when Wood was in her teens. Losing his agency, his TV gigs and his record label in quick succession, Manson’s initial response in 2021 was to claim Wood’s allegations were “horrible distortions of reality.”
A year later he made that official with a jury-seeking lawsuit.
The next hearing in this case is set for April 11 on Wood’s anti-SLAPP motions.
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