A judge struck down many of the claims made by Marilyn Manson in his defamation lawsuit against Evan Rachel Wood on Tuesday, marking a big win for Wood in the continued legal battle between the musician and the Westworld actress.
A Los Angeles judge sided with Wood in striking several claims in Warner’s original complaint including that she had “recruited, coordinated, and pressured” women to make false statements against the musician using a checklist and script, and claims that Wood had forged an FBI letter.
“Based on the foregoing, the Court does not find that Plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on his IIED [infliction of emotional distress] claim based on Wood ‘recruiting, coordinating, and pressuring multiple women to make false accusations against Warner and to be part of their film project,’ ” Judge Teresa Beaudet ruled.
Beaudet also declared Wood and Ilma Gore’s comments about Groupie, Warner’s 1996 short film which they claimed featured an underage individual, to be a “protected activity.” (Pola Weiss, the actress who starred in that film, has previously asserted multiple times that she was over 18 when she shot the film.)
Wood’s attorney Michael Kump told Rolling Stone that he was “very pleased” with the judge’s ruling. “As the Court correctly found, Plaintiff failed to show that his claims against her have even minimal merit,” he said.
Warner’s attorney, Howard King, described the ruling as “disappointing but not unexpected.” “The Court telegraphed this outcome when it refused to consider the bombshell sworn declaration of former plaintiff Ashley Smithline,” he told Rolling Stone, referring to a declaration made by Smithline, who recanted her allegations against Warner and claimed Wood had pressured her to make the statements. (Wood has vehemently denied the accusation.)
“The failure to admit this critical evidence, along with the Court’s decision to not consider Ms. Gore’s iPad, the contents of which demonstrated how she and Ms. Wood crafted a forged FBI letter, will be the subject of an immediate appeal to the California Court of Appeal,” King added.
Warner’s original lawsuit claimed Wood and Gore impersonated an FBI agent to give the appearance that a federal investigation into Warner’s alleged crimes was ongoing. He claimed they sent letters from this agent to women who would later make public allegations against Warner to suggest that they were in danger. Warner also claimed that Wood and Gore “provided checklists and scripts to prospective accusers.” These claims are now out of the suit due to the judge’s decision Tuesday.
During the hearing, Warner’s team argued that the FBI letter, which had been struck, should remain in the case and be used as “context” against Gore. “The idea that the plaintiff could somehow pursue an [infliction of emotional distress] claim against Ms. Gore, based on our client’s court filings… makes no sense,” said Wood’s attorney.
The attempt from Warner’s legal team was quickly struck down by the judge, who expressed her frustration following a back-and-forth between the attorneys. “I already went through this as carefully as I can. I’m not changing that,” Judge Beaudet said. “I’m not clarifying anymore… That’s the way it is.”
Beaudet set a tentative trial date for May 1, 2024, but given Warner’s plan to appeal Tuesday’s decision, the date will likely be pushed back by more than a year.
“I have to confess, I think I might not ever have come up with a 34-page [tentative ruling] before. Even that exhausted me,” the judge told lawyers ahead of her ruling. “Sorry about that. But there was a lot to digest.”
The court update comes almost a year after Warner sued the actress and Gore, accusing them of casting Warner “as a rapist and abuser — a malicious falsehood that has derailed Warner’s successful music, TV, and film career.” It goes on to describe “a conspiracy” the two women allegedly concocted to take Warner down.
Wood and Gore both appeared at the center of Phoenix Rising, a documentary slated to premiere on HBO on March 15. The film, directed by Amy Berg, chronicles Wood’s accusations against Warner, beginning with how they met when she was a teenager up through her decision to name him as her alleged abuser publicly.