Nearly one year after the criminal case against Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella and ex-LA Coliseum executive Todd DeStefano was dropped because of rampant prosecutorial misconduct, similar allegations have arisen in the civil case at the center of the longstanding dispute over the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival.
Attorney Gary Jay Kaufman is asking a judge to throw out the six-year-old civil suit against Rotella, arguing the attorney representing the Coliseum violated a privacy order by publishing information that had been turned over to the Coliseum during the discovery phase of the case, including a highly-confidential document that showed Live Nation had set aside $2 million to settle the lawsuit.
The case dates back to the last rave held at the Coliseum and the overdose death of a 15-year-old girl, prompting an investigation that found the Coliseum’s Patrick Lynch and Todd DeStefano had allegedly personally profited off EDC at the expense of the facility. The Coliseum is suing to recover money it says it is owed by the men and Rotella — all three faced criminal charges for the alleged scheme, but the charges against DeStefano and Rotella were largely dropped after the DA’s Public Integrity Unit was twice caught engaging in prosecutorial misconduct.
One year after those allegations were settled, Kaufman is asking the LA Superior Court judge overseeing the case to find Coliseum Commission attorney Charles E. Slyngstad in contempt of court for violating a privacy order and publishing confidential details of Live Nation’s 2010 purchase of Insomniac. Kaufman said Slyngstad violated a judge’s order for publishing key details from the document that were for “attorney’s eyes only.” Besides sanctions, Kaufman is asking that the case filed by the Coliseum Commission be thrown out.
“The Commission has been wrong on the law and the facts since day one of this litigation and now it seems they have resorted to cheating,” Kaufman told Amplify in an exclusive statement. “I am disappointed, but not surprised, as we have discovered information in this case that shows a pattern of similar behavior by the Commission. It’s a shame that one of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks, home to an NFL team and a potential site for future Olympic games, may have its name sullied by the Commission’s actions.”
The allegations bear a striking resemblance to the end of the Rotella and DeStefano criminal trial, where prosecutors with LA’s Public Integrity Unit were twice caught reading privileged emails between Rotella and his attorneys. The misconduct came to light after Deputy DA Terri Tengelsen published a list of evidence that proved she was still in possession of privileged communications one year after another prosecutor was taken off the case. When Judge Kennedy learned of the allegations she muttered “Oh my God” in open court and Rotella and DeStefano were granted generous plea deals and no jail time. (Rotella walked free and paid a $150,000 fee, Destefano was given a six-month sentence but served nearly all of it on house arrest).
Kaufman’s new allegations deal with the civil phase of the case and argue that after extensive negotiations facilitated by a retired judge acting as a discovery referee, Rotella turned over sensitive documents to the Coliseum Commission detailing the sale of his company to Live Nation. Kaufman said the Commission’s attorney then turned around and filed a new civil complaint against Rotella using “specific, highly sensitive details of attorney’s eyes only documents that could not have come from any other source.”
That complaint alleged that after the lawsuit was filed against Insomniac in 2013, Rotella transferred about 99% of the company’s funds to a new holding company, leaving Insomniac with less than $100,000 in the bank. The complaint also disclosed that Live Nation spent $44.7 million to acquire 50.1 percent of Insomniac in 2013 and that Rotella has a put option to require Live Nation to acquire the rest of the company in 2018 and that Live Nation pre-authorized $2 million to be set aside for potential settlement of the case.
Publishing the information not only notified Slyngstad’s client of Rotella’s legal strategy, Kaufman said, but it placed the information in the public domain and tainted potential jurors who might assume the settlement allocation was an admission of guilt.
“This was not an accident,” Kaufman wrote, accusing the attorney of “knowingly and willfully” publishing sensitive information. For his part, Slyngstad says he “learned the facts” regarding Insomniac’s financial situation “within the last eight months before filing this lawsuit,” matching up with the timeline alleged by Rotella’s attorneys.
Kaufman said his office made several attempts to compel the Coliseum’s attorneys to seal the documents, but they refused. We contacted Slyngstad’s office for comment on this story but did not receive a response.
So how serious are these new allegations? Amplify reached out to attorney and entertainment industry expert Steve Adelman with Adelman Law Group of Scottsdale, Arizona to get his opinion on Kaufman’s motion.
“Reading this in vacuum, it is a very strong motion that the judge should seriously consider granting in its strongest form,” Adelman said, noting that the new complaint filed by Slyngstad “should be dismissed.” (We later checked and learned the new complaint had been dismissed).
“It really is a very serious affront to the judicial system for counsel to incorporate into a public pleading material that the Court had expressly marked as ‘Attorneys’ Eyes Only’ in a previous order,” Adelman told Amplify. “If the parties don’t do what the judge tells them to do, then the rule of law breaks down. At that point, people may revert to resolving disputes by fistfights in the hallway or duels in Weehawken, or just lie and dare people to produce evidence which they might still deny.”
On the flipside, Adelman explained “judges don’t read these in a vacuum. The likelihood that Insomniac and Rotella would win may depend on how serious an issue the judge thinks the disclosure of a settlement fund is.”
Adelman said that it’s hard to claw back information once it has been made public, but noted it’s not uncommon for courts to “exclude evidence and instruct juries to ignore what they’ve just heard,” he said, adding that the judge will look at the entire scoop of Slyngstad’s conduct before issuing a ruling.
“If the judge thinks the Coliseum Parties are basically engaging in vigilante justice — in this case the court of public opinion — then (the judge) might clamp down hard in order to reassert judicial control.”