The Wrap Sued For Libel By Documentary Financier Seeking Permanent Injunction

UPDATE: Film financier and book author Elisabeth Thieriot, who is also the ex-wife of former San Francisco Chronicle publisher Charles Thieriot,  is taking to LA Superior Court for more than $2 million. At issue is a May 9th article on the struggling aggregation website that Thieriot says is full of false accusations and incorrectly translated documents. In a civil suit filed today (read it here), Thieriot says TheWrap knew that allegations claiming she “stole” footage and equipment from a documentary film she was underwriting are a lie, along with allegations that she fled Mexico. Her representatives told the site so on May 8th. “Nonetheless, TheWrap intentionally and recklessly went forward with the Story – even after being told not to proceed in light of the fraudulent statements by [Raul] Julia-Levy upon which it is relying,” the suit says.

Thieriot is going after TheWrap for libel and invasion of privacy. Besides seeking at least $1 million for each count and lawyer’s fees, Thieriot is also seeking a permanent injunction against TheWrap and writer Steve Ponds’ story “because such continued republication, repetition, and dissemination of the defamatory and offensive falsehoods will cause irreperable harm to plaintiff by damaging her reputation and adversely affecting her philanthropic and business efforts as well as her personal relationships”. Thieriot is seeking a 5-day jury trial. She is represented by Stanton L. Stein of Los Angeles firm Line Groade Stein Yankelvitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor.

Thieriot, a Bay Area author, says in the lawsuit that contrary to the article’s claims she is not under investigation by Mexican authorities and has not been charged with anything by Mexican authorities. The suit says this all started because Julia-Levy was her former business partner on a documentary about the Mayans and aliens, Revelations of The Mayans 2012 And Beyond, a project she shut down as one of the executive producers. “Thieriot’s lawsuit is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Julia-Levy initiated a campaign of retaliation and revenge against Ms. Thieriot.” According to the suit, Julia-Levy “filed false claims” with Mexican authorities and gave those documents to TheWrap.

The lawsuit said Thieriot’s representatives offered to show TheWrap that these allegations were baseless. But they were ignored by the site. The suit also says her reps informed TheWrap of Julia-Levy’s past run-ins with the law. (For instance, Julia-Levy was removed as a defense witness in the 2007 Phil Spector murder trial because the prosecution successfully presented proof undermining his credibility.) However, TheWrap posted in its article that Thieriot “did not respond to emails sent to her through her website and her Facebook page” even though the lawsuit makes it clear that Thieriot’s reps actually spoke to Pond by phone on the day before the article was posted last Wednesday.

TheWrap’s article was headlined “Mayan Mystery: Doc Financier Accused of Fleeing with Film Footage” and claimed that its story was based on “documents based on complaints filed by the film’s producer Raul Julia-Levy”. TheWrap presents a photo of an April 16th letter in Spanish seemingly from the office of the Attorney General of the Mexican state of Campeche that “orders Thieriot and two others to appear and turn over” the footage and equipment for the film. Thieriot’s suit counters that this April 16th letter merely asks her and the film’s other producers, Emiliano Chaparro Martinez and Eduardo de la Cerda, to appear in a routine response to a complaint to “provide statements”. Today’s lawsuit accuses TheWrap of having “failed to include, let alone mention” an April 18th letter from the Campeche AG’s office that “the equipment is in the possession of a third party – not Ms. Thieriot”. [Full disclosure: Dominic Patten worked for TheWrap as a freelancer writer and then contract employee from April 2009 to March 2011.]

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