Music

MSG Boss James Dolan Responds To Sexual Assault Lawsuit: ‘Opportunists Looking For Quick Payday’

Attorneys for Madison Square Garden executive James Dolan are firing back at a lawsuit that alleges he pressured a masseuse into unwanted sex while his band was touring with the Eagles, calling his accuser an “opportunist” who is “looking for a quick payday.”

In a motion filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, Dolan’s lawyers asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, in which a woman named Kellye Croft claims that Dolan coerced her into “unlawful and unwelcome sex acts” on repeated occasions during the 2013 tour.

Arguing that the allegations were “completely manufactured,” Dolan’s attorneys told the judge that it is “an unfortunate truth that some men, by virtue of their status, have become targets for opportunists looking for a quick payday.”

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“If this case were to proceed … plaintiff would be exposed as such an opportunist, and her claims would be soundly rejected for the lies that they are,” Dolan’s attorney lead counsel E. Danya Perry wrote. “But this action should never reach that stage, as plaintiff’s complaint is entirely deficient.”

Dolan is the majority owner/CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, a live music giant that operates the famed New York City arena in addition to Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall, the Las Vegas Sphere and other prominent venues.

Croft sued him in January, claiming she had been hired to serve as a massage therapist for Glenn Frey during the 2013 tour, on which Dolan’s band (JD & The Straight Shot) opened for Eagles. She says she thought the job was the “opportunity of a lifetime,” but that she quickly realized the real reason she was there: “Dolan was extremely assertive, and pressured Ms. Croft into unwanted sexual intercourse.”

The lawsuit also claimed that Dolan later facilitated an incident in which Croft was assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer whose many sexual assault allegations helped spark the #MeToo movement in 2017. Dolan previously served as a director at The Weinstein Company, and the lawsuit claimed that the two moguls were “close friends and business partners.”

In Monday’s response, Dolan’s attorneys took particular exception to the Weinstein allegations, calling them “scandalous and irrelevant” claims that had been designed to compensate for flaws in the case: “This transparent reliance on headline-grabbing, yet legally baseless, accusations of liability-by-association cannot save plaintiff’s case.”

Dolan’s motion also argued that the inclusion of Weinstein was actually a “fatal” weakness in one part of the case. They claimed that bankruptcy proceedings for The Weinstein Company resulted in a court order releasing all former directors from allegations that they aided and abetted Weinstein’s conduct — one of the claims leveled against Dolan in the complaint.

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In a response statement on Wednesday, Croft’s attorney Douglas Wigdor called Dolan’s argument “shameful” and said his client had not participated in or benefited from the Weinstein bankruptcy, or even been notified of it.

“To somehow suggest that Dolan should receive a ‘get out of jail free’ card for his alleged intentional acts of trafficking our client, shows the extent to which he is willing to go to avoid having to defend the facts of our case,” Wigdor wrote.

Separately on Monday, attorneys for companies owned by music executive Irving Azoff also filed their own response to the case. While the lawsuit mostly centered on Dolan’s alleged conduct, it also accused the Azoff Company of violating federal sex trafficking laws by “facilitating Dolan’s behavior.”

In their motion, Azoff’s attorneys demanded not only that the claims be dismissed, but that Croft and her lawyers be legally sanctioned for filing “frivolous and vexatious” allegations without any real evidence to support them.

“As was explained to plaintiff’s counsel before the suit was commenced, the Azoff entities have never participated in any sex trafficking venture, and the complaint does not allege a single fact plausibly or remotely suggesting otherwise,” wrote the Azoff Company’s attorney Daniel Petrocelli.

“The decision by plaintiff and her counsel to include [such claims] in a federal pleading with no
diligence or investigation in order to publicly and falsely charge the Azoff Entities with despicable, illegal conduct fully justifies the imposition of … sanctions.”

In one portion of Croft’s complaint, her lawyers included a photograph of Dolan, Azoff and Weinstein standing together in 2015, saying that “these men were close to one another, and thus almost certainly knew details about each other’s personal lives.”

But in Monday’s motion seeking to dismiss the case and punish Croft’s lawyers, Azoff’s attorneys called the inclusion of Weinstein in the complaint a “gratuitous and unavailing” tactic that had been designed to prove “guilt-by-association” in the absence of any real evidence.

“Grasping at straws, plaintiff tries to link Weinstein to the Azoff entities by a single photo of Dolan, Weinstein, and Irving Azoff at an advertising trade conference in 2015,” Petrocelli wrote. “Awarding the Azoff entities their reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in bringing this motion would deter plaintiff’s counsel from asserting such baseless, bad faith claims in the future.”

In his statement Wednesday, Croft’s attorney Wigdor called those arguments “meritless” and reiterated the allegations against Azoff’s companies: “We look forward to defeating these motions and moving forward with this litigation.”

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