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L.A. Times Publisher’s Lawyer Was Accused of Extorting Mel Gibson

The attorney who negotiated a $2.5 million exit package for L.A. Times publisher Davan Maharaj was previously accused of using secret recordings to extort actor Mel Gibson.

Surreptitious recordings also figure in the Maharaj case. NPR reported on Wednesday that Maharaj taped Tronc chairman Michael Ferro. According to the report, Ferro was heard on the recordings referring to a “Jewish cabal” that runs Los Angeles. The report stated the Maharaj was able to use the recordings as “ammunition” in the settlement talks.

According to NPR, a retired judge who reviewed Ferro’s recorded remarks suggested that Tronc settle the case to avoid public embarrassment.

Maharaj’s attorney, Eric George, disputed that interpretation, saying in a statement on Wednesday that Maharaj was compensated for his 30 years of service to the Times.

“We reject any assertion that Davan received any payments to keep information secret,” George said.

The situation recalls the contentious fight between Gibson and his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, in 2010. George represented Grigorieva, who had made recordings of Gibson, in which he called her a “whore” and a “c—” and suggested that she should be “raped by a pack of n—ers.”

According to reporting at the time, George alluded to the tapes in a conference with Gibson’s lawyers, saying “It would ruin his career if this got out.” In another meeting, George reportedly played one of the recordings for Gibson’s lawyers and asked for a settlement worth $20 million.

Gibson accused Grigorieva of extortion, and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case. In March 2011, prosecutors opted not to file charges. Griegorieva reached a $16 million deal with Gibson in May 2010, but the agreement fell apart and the recordings were later leaked to Radar Online.

The L.A. Times published a front-page article on the case in February 2011, and a follow-up the next month. At the time, Maharaj was managing editor of the paper.

Maharaj was later promoted to editor and executive vice president of the paper, and then to editor-in-chief and publisher before he was fired in 2017. He subsequently hired George to pursue negotiations with Tronc.

Eric George declined to comment.

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