Danny Masterson’s ex-legal team sanctioned for leaking discovery material to Church of Scientology in rape trial

Tom Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum, Danny Masterson’s former attorneys before they were ousted from the actor’s defense team, have been disciplined for leaking confidential discovery documents to the Church of Scientology.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo found on Wednesday that Meseareau and Applebaum shared a criminal discovery related to claims by Masterson’s accusers that they were being stalked and harassed. This discovery was shared with Vicki Podberesky, an attorney defending the church in a civil lawsuit against the women who used the information to file a complaint against lead prosecutors in the lawsuit that they were soliciting false testimony to convict Masterson.

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In the order, Olmedo also found that the church’s complaint was “patently false.”

Before Masterson was convicted in May of raping two women at his Los Angeles home in the early 2000s after the jury failed to rule on another forced rape charge in a split verdict, he It was revealed that a lawyer representing the church in a civil case from the accusers who also tried to intervene in the actor’s trial had obtained criminal discovery material. The information included reports, photos and texts indicating, among other things, the addresses and license plate numbers of the women.

In 12 letters from the church to Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore citing the discovery, Podberesky also called for criminal investigations into detectives who investigated Masterson for allegedly failing to give following his claims that Masterson’s accusers had filed false police reports. She also claimed that their testimony was biased against the church. Attached to his complaint was a link to a file containing much of the prosecution’s discovery that was provided to Masterson’s criminal defense team.

Philip Cohen, Shawn Holley and Karen Goldstein, Masterson’s defense team at trial, denied being behind the leak. Holley indicated that she believed it came from the actor’s former legal counsel.

During a Wednesday hearing to investigate the source of the leak, Assistant District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said most of the find obtained by the church was produced between March and December 2021, when Mesereau was the Masterson’s lead attorney. He urged the court to impose sanctions, arguing the documents were handed over to intimidate law enforcement and accusers.

Letting the conduct go unpunished, he explained, will have a “chilling effect” on accusers who come forward to law enforcement. “They are experienced lawyers. They know it,” he said, referring to the discovery process. “These are rules they have known for a long time.”

Mesereau and Appelbaum’s defense was based on arguments that Olmedo never issued an order restraining them from sharing the discovery.

“The court made a number of unquestioned statements saying they wouldn’t allow a certain discovery and that discovery didn’t happen,” said Edith Matthai, Mesereau’s attorney. “What is alleged to be shared is a discovery that has been licensed, and there is no order or statement that I have seen anywhere in a transcript indicating that the discovery cannot be shared for the purposes of civil actions. .”

The judge, however, concluded that the defense position “runs contrary to legal and jurisprudential authority” and “thwarts Marsy’s law, legislative intent, governmental interests and privacy; and above all is contrary to the Court’s previous findings and orders.” Responding to claims that she did not order a blanket ban on sharing discovery material, she said she “has made numerous statements at hearings of discovery, repeatedly telling the defense that the criminal discovery process would not be used for discovery in civil cases”. Her words, she explained, are “legitimate orders.”

During the April 2021 discovery hearings, Olmedo said “Scientology is not a party to this proceeding” and that “we are not going to litigate the civil case in the criminal case, nor the discovery that is relevant or no longer relevant to the civil case is going to be a basis for obtaining discovery here in the criminal case. She also rejected previous defense offers to obtain discovery that could be helpful to Masterson and the church. in the civil trial, including a request for a number of items she found “had nothing to do with the criminal case,” she wrote in the ruling, which cites a transcript of the hearing of August 2021, “It appears to the Court that not only is the defendant trying to obtain material that would be helpful in the civil case, it appears to the Court that the defendant is using the criminal process to try to obtain material which he would otherwise never have had the right to obtain in a civil case and, therefore, he uses the criminal procedure for a purpose other than that for which it is to be used”. Additionally, Olmedo said of Masterson’s civil and criminal lawyers during a September 2022 hearing, “I find that they are two separate teams and they have two separate interests…The free flow of confidential information is therefore not necessarily protected between the two.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the civil case against Masterson and the church have requested access to the leaked discovery documents to determine what information was used to harass their clients. They also asked for a court order barring the parties from sharing the documents further.

Although she was notified of the hearing, Podberesky did not show up. Olmedo said she had no power to compel her to do anything or punish her because she was not a party to the criminal case. Podberesky attempted to intervene earlier in Masterson’s criminal case as an “officer of the court,” arguing that the grand jury subpoena should be turned over to the defense because it could provide impeachment material. The offer was rejected. Lawyers from Podberesky’s firm attended almost all of the proceedings in the criminal case, according to Olmedo.

Mesereau, who also represented Cosby in criminal proceedings and won Michael Jackson’s acquittal in 2005, declined to comment.

Masterson will be sentenced on August 4. He faces 30 years to life in prison.

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