Court unseals complaint by Playboy model against RNC fundraiser
George Pimentel/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) — A California court on Tuesday unsealed a redacted complaint filed by former Playboy model Shera Bechard against top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy — alleging that Broidy has breached a contract that required him to pay Bechard $1.6 million to keep quiet about their affair and her pregnancy.
The suit also names as defendants Bechard’s former lawyer, Keith Davidson, who cut deals for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and current Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti. It alleges that Davidson breached his duties to Bechard and subsequently leaked info about the secret deal to Avenatti, who proceeded to make it public.
Bechard’s complaint — which was filed under seal in Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this month — alleges that Broidy has breached their contract by stopping the periodic payments of $200,000 that he was required to make under the agreement. She also contends that Davidson misled her about the terms of the contract, negotiated a “crushingly one-sided” deal that favored Broidy, charged her exorbitant and fraudulent fees, and breached his ethical duties to her by sharing confidential information about the deal with Avenatti.
She alleges Avenatti conspired with Davidson to interfere with the contract, and to breach Davidson’s fiduciary duties to her.
“Whatever transpired was not the fault of Ms. Bechard,” writes Peter Stris, an attorney for Bechard.
“She did nothing wrong. She should not be deprived of her rights because the three men described above (Mr. Broidy, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Avenatti) decided that they could use her to their advantage,” he continues.
The version of the complaint filed Tuesday contains significant redactions that were made by Broidy’s legal team. The redacted sections appear to conceal the details about the relationship he shared with Bechard.
Avenatti has responded with a motion to unseal the complaint in total.
Several media organizations, including ABC News, have separately moved for unsealing of the complaint and other documents filed in the case.
Bechard alleges in her complaint that she met with Davidson on Oct. 31, 2017, for help “dealing with a problem.” She says she was seven weeks pregnant with Broidy’s child, conceived in an extramarital affair. Broidy was, at the time, a deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. She terminated the pregnancy in early December 2017.
About a week after first meeting with Davidson, Bechard alleges he told her that he was in discussions with Broidy’s lawyer, whom he identified as Michael Cohen, a man Davidson claimed to have a relationship with, according to Bechard’s filing. Bechard claims to have been surprised that Davidson had found the lawyer for Broidy so quickly, but she did not suspect anything was amiss at the time.
By mid-November, Davidson presented her with a proposed deal — without providing her a copy, according to her complaint — and she signed and agreed to the terms, under which both parties agreed to clam up about their relationship. In return, Broidy would pay Bechard $1.6 million in eight installments, with Davidson taking 35 percent off the top. Broidy made the first two payments.
Bechard fired Davidson in early April after learning from news reports of the alleged roles of Cohen and Davidson in the Daniels and McDougal deals, according to her lawsuit.
“Despite his fiduciary and ethical duties to his client, Mr. Davidson treated Ms. Bechard’s claims as a commodity to be traded for his own financial gain,” Bechard alleges. She contends that Davidson, without her knowledge and consent, negotiated terms that would require her to pay $4.8 million dollars in liquidated damages if she breached the agreement.
“No reasonable lawyer would have recommended that Ms. Bechard sign the settlement agreement, and no properly informed client in her position would have agreed,” her complaint reads.
On April 12, Avenatti sent a tweet stating that he had received information about a deal between a “prominent GOP donor” and a Los Angeles woman who had become pregnant during an affair.
Bechard contends that Davidson improperly shared the information, and that Avenatti should have been fully aware that the information he allegedly received from Davidson was supposed to remain secret.
Avenatti didn’t use any names in his tweet, but the next day, The Wall Street Journal published an article revealing the existence of the deal between Broidy and Bechard, and the role played by Cohen on behalf of Broidy.
“Mr. Avenatti’s decision to receive confidential information about Ms. Bechard from her attorney,” Bechard’s complaint reads, “including the existence and terms of the settlement agreement was, if Mr. Broidy’s allegations are correct, accomplished through unlawful and unethical means, including complicity in Mr. Davidson’s violation of ethical duties owed to Ms. Bechard.”
Avenatti has already fired back Tuesday on Twitter in response to Bechard’s attorney, Peter Stris, who posted a copy of the redacted complaint: “It was really big of you to release this when you should have never filed the original complaint under seal to begin with. When I am ultimately exonerated in this case because I did nothing wrong, I am coming after you, your firm and your client for malicious prosecution. Good luck.”
Stris also represented McDougal in her lawsuit against National Enquirer publisher AMI Inc., which settled earlier this year.
Avenatti previously told ABC News that Bechard’s claims against him were without merit.
“He did not tell me that I shouldn’t say anything about it,” Avenatti said of Davidson. “I didn’t owe her any duty. I was never told to keep it confidential, and I owed her nothing. Her beef lies with Mr. Davidson.”
Davidson has previously denied the allegations leveled by Broidy in The Wall Street Journal and by Bechard in the complaint. A spokesman for Davidson told ABC News earlier this month that Davidson “has never breached any agreement or client confidentiality in this case. Any accusation to the contrary is false and defamatory.”
“Helping his client achieve a $1.6 million settlement is a pretty impressive achievement, given the facts of this case,” Paul Berra, Davidson’s attorney, told the Los Angeles Times. “I mean, she wasn’t kidnapped.”
In a statement to ABC News, Berra said, “Ms. Bechard’s claim that my client disclosed confidential information is not true. The Wall Street Journal published the details of her relationship with Broidy and the settlement — not Davidson. Broidy was wrong to stop making the installment payments, and everyone in this case knows it.”
Bechard’s lawsuit seeks compensatory damages from all defendants, full payment from Broidy on an expedited schedule, a disgorgement or reduction in Davidson’s fees and punitive damages against Davidson.
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