Hours after the Los Angeles Times published a story on Wednesday detailing sexual misconduct allegations by six women, some of them well-known actresses, against film director and producer Brett Ratner, he chose to sue. Instead of pursuing litigation against any of the women named in the LA Times piece, he charged defamation against former Hollywood talent agency assistant Melanie Kohler, who had written a Facebook post detailing rape allegations against him that she deleted two hours after it went up.
Kohler now has a powerful force at her side fighting Ratner’s suit: Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who led the team representing Edith Windsor against the United States in the Supreme Court case that ruled the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages. Kaplan is representing Kohler on a pro bono basis.
After the New York Times, HuffPost and the New Yorker published allegations of sexual misconduct against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Kohler was inspired to share her experience with Ratner and wrote a long account she posted on her Facebook page.
Ratner’s three-page complaint against Kohler (which is quite short for a major claim of defamation, according to three lawyers who spoke to HuffPost) quotes from three sentences from her Facebook post, which HuffPost is the first outlet to publish in its entirety. HuffPost received the post five days ago, but at the time it had no name attached to it.
My hands are shaking even as I try to write this. It’s not something I’ve ever told anyone in my entire life. Not even my closest friends at the time. Brett Ratner raped me. He is a famous director and producer in Hollywood.
If there is any chance of changing the hollywood culture, the american culture, it has to happen now while people are listening.
I tell this story in hopes that if he’s done it to others that they might have the confidence to come forward. And if he hasn’t, that maybe he can be accountable for the way he’s treated the nobodies of the world or at least the way he treated me. Even if he treats all the somebodies of the world with respect and decency, he is not a public monster like Harvey and I don’t think anyone has much bad to say about him professionally, that doesn’t mean he can do this in the dark shadows of the night when he thinks no one is looking. He was a predator and a rapist on at least on one night in Hollywood about 12 years ago.
It happened when I worked at Endeavor Talent Agency in hollywood. It was 2004 or 2005. I won’t go into the details here to spare the people who don’t want to hear them but I’m willing to share my story with anyone who needs to hear it.
Long story short, he preyed on me as a drunk girl who was alone at a club at the end of the night, he took me back to Robert Evans house, he forced himself upon me after I said no and no and no again, and then left me there. He just got up, didn’t say a word, got in his car and left and I laid there humiliated and broken on the floor. The rest of the night is fuzzy, I must have stumbled out of the house and called a cab and I went home and erased it from my mind.
I’m embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, and wish I could go back to forgetting it ever happened. But if I do that, if we all do that, then it keeps happening. We have to come forward. I can’t be an advocate for women speaking out if I don’t speak out too.
Brett Ratner raped me. I’m saying his name, I’m saying it publicly. Now at least I can look at myself in the mirror and not feel like part of me is a coward or a hypocrite. I’m standing up and saying this happened to me and it was not ok.
Come what may, it is the right thing to do.
Less than two hours after Kohler posted her account, she received a threatening phone call from Hollywood litigator Marty Singer, who represents Ratner. According to a source familiar with the call, Kohler felt intimidated by Singer’s threats of litigation and deleted her post. Singer also represents actor Danny Masterson (whom four women have accused of rape) and used to represent Bill Cosby in his claims against some of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct.
On Sunday, three days before the Los Angeles Times published its investigation into Ratner, Singer also sent an email to the lawyer who was representing Kohler at the time. “Unless your client retracts the story to the LA Times today, Mr. Ratner will immediately sue her for millions of dollars,” he wrote. It’s unknown if Kohler spoke to the LA Times, but she is not named in the story.
In the paper’s detailed report published Wednesday, actress Natasha Henstridge said Ratner in the early ’90s prevented her from leaving his New York apartment after a party, started to masturbate in front of her and forced her to perform oral sex. In an interview with the Times, Henstridge said, “He strong-armed me in a real way. He physically forced himself on me. At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”
Actress Olivia Munn said Ratner masturbated in front of her when she went to his trailer on the set of one of his films in 2004. Four other women detailed allegations of sexual misconduct in the same Los Angeles Times story.
Ratner, through Singer, denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.
The movie director is facing allegations from two well-known actresses who likely have more resources at their disposal than Kohler, who runs a small business with her husband in Hawaii. The actresses detailed their allegations in interviews with a major publication, and unlike Kohler’s Facebook post, their stories won’t be deleted.
Kaplan sees Ratner’s move as a commonly used intimidation tactic: Instead of suing the famous, wealthy actresses who have accused him of misconduct in a prominent newspaper, Ratner is going after a woman who is no longer in the entertainment business, has no fame or significant financial resources, and whose story was public for less than two hours. Kaplan told HuffPost that she believes Ratner is picking the most vulnerable accuser to make an example out of her.
“It’s hardly a surprise that they picked one woman to victimize again in an effort to bully other women into silence,” Kaplan said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “Mr. Ratner and his lawyers can try to erase the truth through threats and intimidation, but courts decide cases based on the facts and the law. So our response to Mr. Ratner’s frivolous, four-page complaint is short and simple: See you in court.”
Bill Burton, a former White House deputy press secretary and a managing director of the public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker, is also representing Kohler pro bono. “The goal of these lawsuits is to intimidate women,” he said in an email to HuffPost. “Our goal is to stop the behavior. Melanie will not be intimidated.”
After the Los Angeles Times published its story, a source told the paper that Warner Brothers won’t renew a production deal it has with Ratner.
“In light of the allegations being made, I am choosing to personally step away from all Warner Bros.-related activities,” Ratner said in a statement released to the media. “I don’t want to have any possible negative impact to the studio until these personal issues are resolved.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated Kohler deleted her Facebook post and then received a threatening phone call from Singer. In fact, a source said she deleted the post after Singer called her and threatened litigation.