Suit Aims to Make Murdoch Next Victim in O.J. Book Debacle


Dec. 19, 2006 — -- A lawsuit was filed today by Fred Goldman aiming to depose News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch for his role in the aborted O.J. Simpson book "If I Did It" as allegations surfaced that Judith Regan, the book's publisher who was fired Friday, said there was a "Jewish cabal" conspiring against her.

Goldman's lawyers filed a federal civil lawsuit this morning claiming that Simpson funneled profits from a deal for a TV interview and the aborted book about the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, Goldman's son, through a shell corporation to avoid paying a multi-million dollar civil judgment.

News of the lawsuit comes amid the outbreak of caustic corporate warfare between Regan and Murdoch, her former boss.

Regan's lawyer vowed today to sue News Corp. for wrongful termination after the company released notes taken by a HarperCollins employee claiming Regan accused him in a phone call Friday of being part of a "Jewish cabal ... conspiring against me."

Andrew Butcher, News Corp. spokesman, confirmed the content of the notes to ABC News Law & Justice Unit today.

Separately, a News Corp. source told ABC News on Sunday that executives there had been looking for a reason to fire the firebrand publisher in the wake of the Simpson book debacle and got one Friday with the phone call.

Bert Fields, Regan's attorney, denied today that his client had used the words "Jewish cabal."

"They're playing the religious card and trying to smear her with an anti-Semitic label," Fields told ABC News. "They know it's damaging. That's why they're doing it."

He said Regan used the word "cabal" but that she never attached "Jewish" to it.

Depositions taken in the Goldman case will "undoubtedly" include Murdoch, Regan and executives from HarperCollins who were part of the decision-making process surrounding the promotion and eventual cancellation of the book, "If I Did It," and a two-part television interview, Jonathan Polak, Goldman's attorney, said.

"My view is that Murdoch's admission that he personally participated in the decision [to fire Regan], as well as our perception that he personally participated in the decision to go forward with the book and interview, guarantees that he's going to have to spend a day with me, at least, talking about what he knows," Polak told ABC News.

Civil law experts say that in order to depose Murdoch, lawyers for the Goldmans would need to show that Murdoch was personally involved in the decision-making process surrounding the planned publication of the book.

Experts also say that it's extremely difficult to garnish wages or other money that has already been paid to a debtor in a civil suit.

Only Simpson is named in legal papers filed today in Los Angeles, but Polak said the legal complaint will be amended to include News Corp., the company's executives and entities after more information is gathered in the course of the Simpson suit.

"This will not stop at [the alleged shell corporation]," Polak said. "It is clear to us that the highest levels of News Corporation were involved in this deal. We have some tough questions for those people."

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles claims that Simpson hired Florida attorney Leonardo Stark to create a corporation called Lorraine Brooke -- which the complaint claims are the middle names of Simpson's two children. It says that the company is a shell corporation created to "funnel" profits from Simpson's commercial projects to the former football great.

"There is nothing fraudulent about the transaction with HarperCollins," Simpson's attorney Yale Galanter said. "Mr. Simpson is entitled to work as a head of household to support himself and his children. The Goldmans and their various legal teams are under the impression that Mr. Simpson has an obligation to notify them whenever he is working. That is not correct. They have already lost that battle in the California courts and they will lose this one also."

Last month, the publication of the book and the broadcast of an interview with Regan and Simpson that was set to air on Fox Broadcasting, the sister company of HarperCollins, were cancelled after public backlash and criticism within Fox from Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera. HarperCollins fired Regan on Friday in wake of the controversy.

The combination of prime time television hours and a presumably chart-topping book would have made millions for parent company News Corp. and the former football star. The interview was set to run during November sweeps, the period when networks try to capture their highest ratings, which set rates for advertisers. The book was scheduled for release on Nov. 30.

In 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of murder in the slayings of his wife and Goldman in a criminal case. However, a jury in a 1997 civil lawsuit found him liable for the deaths and awarded the Goldman and Brown families $33.5 million.

Neither family has been able to collect money from the judgment, and Simpson has publicly and consistently refused to abide by the terms of the settlement.

The lawsuit against News Corp. and HarperCollins will be based on the legal premise of "fraudulent transfer," which in this case would contend that News Corp. executives knowingly conspired to assist Simpson in subverting a civil judgment against him.

Regan was abruptly fired last week in what one News Corp. executive described to ABC News as the last straw in a chain of events that began with the Simpson book and reportedly ended with the incendiary phone call Friday between Regan and HarperCollins attorney Mark Jackson.

Regan, a magnet for controversy forever hovering on the lucrative margins of good taste, made millions for News Corp. publishing porn star memoirs and the biographies of attention-getters like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. She was unavailable for comment.

Families of the Brentwood, Calif., murder victims on Monday characterized her termination as a battle won in a larger war.

"Hurray!" Denise Brown wrote in an e-mail response to ABC News. "This is just the beginning, though."

"She got what she deserved," Fred Goldman said. "But we will be taking a pretty substantial number of legal actions."

During a heated phone call about the planned publication of "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel," a book that has also raised pre-publication controversy over its depiction of the Yankee great's carousing and sex life, Regan allegedly accused Jackson, who is Jewish, of being part of a conspiratory "cabal."

"Of all people, Jews should know about ganging up, finding common enemies, telling the big lie," Regan allegedly told Jackson, News Corp. spokesman Andrew Butcher told ABC News, based on notes taken by Jackson during the conversation.

Regan allegedly went on to say that literary agent "Esther Newberg, [HarperCollins executive] David Hershey, [HarperCollins CEO] Jane Friedman and Jackson constitute a Jewish cabal against me."

"All of you people are conspiring against me!" Regan allegedly said, though her attorney Bert Fields denied the charge.

"She didn't say 'Jewish cabal,'" Fields said today. "And even if she had, it wouldn't be grounds for dismissal."

Regan told The New York Times last month that she "contracted with a third party" that told her the money would go to Simpson's children.

"They said the money was not going to Simpson," she said. "If it is, I hope Fred Goldman and the Browns and everyone else can get it."

She also told the newspaper at the time that she would share information about the financial deal with the families.

Simpson, for his part, laughed off the controversy in a November interview with a Florida radio station.

The Simpson book was recalled and destroyed, though Simpson was paid for his "story."

Last month, a HarperCollins news release for the book quoted Simpson as saying, "I'm going to tell you a story you've never heard before, because no one knows this story the way I know it.

"It takes place on the night of June 12, 1994, and it concerns the murder of my ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her young friend, Ronald Goldman," Simpson said in the release. "I want you to forget everything you think you know about that night, because I know the facts better than anyone."

The release goes on to say that the book will provide "for the first time ever, a bone-chilling account of the night of the murders, in which Simpson pictures himself at the center of the action."

"This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession," Regan told The Associated Press before the book's publication was cancelled by News Corp. and Murdoch issued a rare public apology to the Brown and Goldman families.

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