The communications consultant for financier Daryl Katz is asking that a New York court dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the husband of model Greice Santo, calling the claim a “smear dressed up as a lawsuit.”
Santo, who had a recurring role on “Jane the Virgin,” accused Katz of offering her money and movie role in exchange for sex. Katz denies it, but Santo’s husband, R.J. Cipriani, earlier this month filed a defamation lawsuit making the claim that Katz’s media representative, Glenn Bunting, tarnished his reputation.
In a motion for dismissal filed in New York Supreme Court, Bunting called the allegations “bogus” and accused Cipriani of using “publicity rooted in falsehoods” to smear his and his firm’s reputation.
“The lawsuit is, in truth, a ruse designed to enable [Cipriani] to publicize offensive and false claims against Mr. Katz and to malign Glenn F. Bunting and his firm in the process,” according to Bunting’s motion to dismiss. “It has everything to do with negative publicity, and nothing to do with truth or valid legal claims.”
Santo claims that Katz, who owns the Edmonton Oilers and is financier for Silver Pictures, twice made promises that he could help her acting career. Santo says that although she spurned Katz’s advances, she later received two wire transfers totaling $35,000.
The allegations were first disclosed in the defamation lawsuit that Cipriani, aka Robin Hood 702, filed against Bunting earlier this month. Cipriani contends that Bunting damaged his relationship with a New York Post editor by accusing Cipriani of extortion in an effort to kill the story about Katz. Cipriani denies the extortion claim.
Katz’s attorneys have accused Cipriani and Santo of seeking $3.3 million from Katz as the price for keeping quiet about their allegations. Katz does not deny meeting with Santo, but his attorney said that the claims were false and “entirely without merit.”
In his motion to dismiss the case, Bunting contends that the claim that Cipriani “hatched an extortion plot against” Katz “was, and remains, true.”
“Truth is and always will be the ultimate defense to a claim of defamation — and leveraging a meritless civil claim for monetary payment is, by legal definition, extortion,” Bunting’s filing states.He also contends that “describing efforts to extract a large settlement as ‘extortion’ is not defamatory under New York law,” noting that courts have held that the term is protected opinion.
“This is particularly so where the term is used in the context of a PR professional’s advocacy to a savvy professional journalist,” the filing states. According to the filing, in using the term, Bunting relied upon a letter from Patrick Burke, a lawyer who represents Michael Gelmon, the cousin of Katz. According to Santo, it was Gelmon who offered to introduce her to Katz.
Santo also claims that Gelmon called and threatened her when word got back to him that she had been talking about her encounters with Katz. The call was recorded, and Gelmon can be heard telling her that Katz’s people could “make sure you don’t work in Hollywood ever again.”
Peter Gleason, attorney for Cipriani, told Variety that he intends to file opposition papers to the motion to dismiss.