Anita Busch is one huge step closer to putting Michael Ovitz on trial for allegedly hiring Anthony Pellicano to intimidate her.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that Ovitz has failed to show that he's entitled to summary judgment over Busch's claims that Ovitz instigated a series of acts against her a decade ago, including the wiretapping of the journalist's phone, a note on her windshield that read "Stop" with a dead fish and a rose, a hacked computer, an attack while she was driving her car and more.
Busch has worked for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter. During the 1990s and early 2000s, she wrote articles about many powerful figures in Hollywood, including Ovitz. Someone wanted her to cease what she was doing.
After the dead fish incident became public, the FBI investigated and the world learned about Pellicano, the shadowy private eye who worked on behalf of some in Hollywood.
According to court papers from Busch's 2004 lawsuit, early speculation on what triggered the attack centered on Steven Seagal and his former producing partner Jules Nasso, perhaps with mob assistance, but Busch eventually suspected Ovitz. The journalist jotted down in notes in 2003, "Dear God... it could have only been one person... only one person makes sense and that is Michael Ovitz."
The fact that Busch had this suspicion as far back as 2003 became a reason why Ovitz's attorney Eric George demanded that the lawsuit couldn't survive. George believes that by the time Busch got around to amending her lawsuit in 2006 to include Ovitz, the statute of limitations had run its course.
In deciding whether to allow the case to move forward, Judge Elihu Berle put the "pivotal question" this way: "Did [Busch] know actual facts to cause a reasonable person to believe liability is probable against Ovitz as opposed to mere suspicion that Ovitz was responsible for the alleged wrongful acts?"
The judge turned his attention to June 12, 2003, when an FBI agent allegedly told Busch that her name, as well as NYT colleague Bernard Weinraub, had previously been run through an LAPD database. Because the database search allegedly happened before she began working on a story about Seagal-Nasso and happened shortly after the two reporters had completed articles on Ovitz for the NYT, Ovitz asserted that on the date of the FBI interview, she believed that Ovitz had hired Pellicano.
But Busch denied being told her name was run in a LAPD database search.
"The evidence provided by Ovitz shows at most that [Busch] suspected that Ovitz was involved in the wrongdoing," Berle wrote. "Ovitz has failed to offer any actual facts that [Busch] knew that would possibly implicate Ovitz in the alleged wrongdoing other than the timing of the search of [Busch's] name."
The judge said that whether or not she was told of the database search is a triable issue. Plus, the judge says that at the time in question, there might be evidence that would have pointed Busch toward Seagal-Nasso.
Ovitz's contention that Busch's claims are time-barred has failed at the summary judgment stage. The ruling was made from the bench in late January and became public last week when Busch's attorney Evan Marshall filed a proposed order based upon the judge's remarks. In addition to denying Ovitz's motion for summary judgment, the judge also refused Ovitz's attempt to sanction Busch.
Attorneys for both sides were unavailable for comment.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner