Attention budding screenwriters: you still have a chance. The mystery of the missing Oscars is still a mystery — and they are still missing.
Scores of reporters, photographers and TV camera operators were lured to the offices of lawyer Stephen Yagman on Thursday thinking he was about to produce one of three Oscars still missing from a March 8 heist of 55 statuettes, while announcing a $20 million lawsuit alleging that police had arrested and detained the wrong man for the theft.
Yagman did, indeed, produce the lawsuit. And with a flourish, he did pull an Oscar from a brown paper bag. But, as Yagman said, the statuette was “a prop to show what an Oscar looks like” and was not one of the missing Oscars.
The stunt prompted press cries of foul.
Yagman refused to say whether his “prop” was a real Oscar won by one of several Academy Award winners he said he knew, or a fake.
But he spoke freely about the $20 million civil rights lawsuit he filed over the alleged wrongful arrest and detainment of Anthony Hart, 38, a worker for Roadway Express, the trucking company that shipped the Oscars to Los Angeles.
Hart was arrested March 18 and held in jail for four days until Los Angeles Police chief Bernard Parks returned from a trip to trumpet the recovery of the Oscars at a press conference, according to the lawsuit.
The District Attorney’s office, on reviewing the case against Hart, decided there was no evidence to charge him and ordered him freed. Hart, a forklift driver, was fired by Roadway, and has been unable to find work since because of the stigma now surrounding his name, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit appeared to seek damages from almost anyone connected to the case, from Parks and his press attaches, to the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Roadway security chief Jon Gorloff.
It described Parks as a “forever reckless and arrogant” police chief, and said he had no jurisdiction over the case because the theft took place in the independent city of Bell which has its own police force and never asked the Los Angeles police for help.
The Oscars were en route to the March 26 Academy Awards when they were stolen on March 8 from a depot at the Roadway Express shipping company.
A few days after they disappeared a junk salvager found 52 of the missing statuettes, still in their boxes, in a trash dumpster. He turned them over to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, receiving a $50,000 reward.