In May 2021, Ashley Morgan Smithline appeared on the cover of People magazine next to the headline: “I survived a monster.”
The story announced that Smithline, who has worked as a model and actor, was “ready to tell her truth” about the horrific abuse she had suffered at the hands of Marilyn Manson. Among other things, she alleged that Manson had tied her up and raped her while she slept, drank her blood and carved his initials into her thigh.
“I was brainwashed, and it makes me feel disgusting,” she said, alongside a photo in which she displayed the scar.
But in a three-page declaration filed in court on Thursday, Smithline recanted her allegations.
She said that the claims, which she first posted to her Instagram account in February 2021, “contained untrue statements” about Manson, “including that there was violence and non-consensual sexual activity in our brief relationship.”
She also stated that there was “no branding or cutting” during the relationship, “and certainly no ‘Marilyn Manson’ initials carved on my body.”
Smithline also alleged that she had been pressured into making the false allegations by Evan Rachel Wood, Manson’s ex-girlfriend, who has publicly accused him of abusing her during their four-year relationship.
She alleged that she was manipulated by Wood and others, including Wood’s girlfriend Illma Gore, into participating in a publicity campaign against Manson. In addition to the People cover shoot, Smithline appeared on “The View” and filed a federal lawsuit accusing Manson of violent sexual abuse.
The lawsuit was dismissed in January after her attorney, Jay Ellwanger, withdrew from the case due to a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.
Smithline now maintains that she was convinced to make the false allegations after hearing the accounts of Wood and Esme Bianco, another Manson accuser.
She said that when she first spoke to Wood in 2020, she denied having been abused. But she alleges that Wood told her she must have “repressed” her memories. In effect, she claims she was brainwashed.
“Eventually, I started to believe that what I was repeatedly told happened to Ms. Wood and Ms. Bianco also happened to me,” she said.
Wood’s spokesperson denied Smithline’s claims.
“Evan never pressured or manipulated Ashley,” the spokesperson said. “It was Ashley who first contacted Evan about the abuse she had suffered. It’s unfortunate that the harassment and threats Ashley received after filing her federal lawsuit appear to have pressured her to change her testimony.”
Smithline also claimed that Ellwanger filed the suit without reviewing it with her, and that he was among those who pressured her to make the false allegations. In an email to Variety, Ellwanger denied the claims.
“My response is constrained by ethical obligations regarding client confidentiality, even to a former client,” Ellwanger wrote. “But what I can say is that the specific allegations in the Declaration regarding my representation of Ms. Smithline are categorically and verifiably false.”
Manson is now suing Wood and Gore for defamation, alleging that they have maliciously derailed his career with false allegations of abuse. Manson also accuses them of recruiting other women to make false allegations against him.
Attorneys for Wood and Gore have filed a motion to throw out the claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that the suit is an effort to chill free speech on a matter of public interest. Their attorneys have also argued there is no evidence that Wood or Gore pressured anyone to make false accusations.
Howard King, Manson’s lawyer, filed Smithline’s declaration in defense of the anti-SLAPP motion. King asserts that the declaration constitutes new evidence that Wood and Gore did, in fact, pressure women to fabricate allegations.
The motion is set to be heard on April 11.
People has appended an editor’s note to its May 2021 cover story, noting that Smithline has retracted her claims.