MANHATTAN (CN) – A successful New York artist who shacked up in the Hamptons with a younger man he met online brought a lawsuit Thursday, claiming that he was the victim of a humiliating extortion attempt.
Rejecting the notion that he could have coerced their sexual relationship, the artist Ross Bleckner paired his complaint against Cody Gilman with a number of sexually provocative photographs that he says Gilman sent him.
Bleckner, who is represented in the case by the law firm Clayman & Rosenberg, says the relationship began in 2015 after he met Gilman through a gay dating app.
Gilman left New York sometime thereafter, according to the complaint, but began texting Bleckner again in December 2017. Learning that Gilman was about to be between work after finishing a construction job in Kentucky, Bleckner says he invited Gilman to stay with him in East Hampton.
Gilman “indicated that he was interested in resuming the previous sexual relationship with [Bleckner],” and Bleckner says they agreed over text that he would pay Gilman $750 a week during their time together, in exchange for Gilman doing “minor chores, some shopping and occasional cooking while in East Hampton.”
Bleckner and Gilman allegedly lived together for four weeks until March 2018 when Gilman departed with a warning for Bleckner to expect a call from his attorney. But Bleckner says up until then, Gilman had lived in Bleckner’s home voluntarily, engaging in consensual sexual activity on a number of occasions.
“During the period while Defendant was living at Plaintiff’s home in East Hampton he regularly posted pictures to his social media accounts with photographs of himself working out, dancing, and posing topless,” the complaint states.
Bleckner says Gilman’s attorney finally made contact with him via letter in May, “enclos[ing] a complaint premised upon allegations that Plaintiff sexually harassed, coerced, and assaulted Defendant.”
“It describes sexual activity between Plaintiff and Defendant in gratuitous and graphic detail and contends that it was as the result of physical force and coercion applied by Plaintiff (a five and a half foot tall 69 year-old artist) against Defendant (a more than six foot tall twenty-five year-old construction worker),” the complaint continues (parentheses and other punctuation in original). “It alleges that Plaintiff is liable to Defendant for various tort and statutory claims based upon these allegations.”
At this point, Bleckner allegedly learned that Gilman had began secretly recording their conversations and sexual activities upon getting to the Hamptons.
Bleckner says his lawyer was told by Gilman’s lawyer “that if Plaintiff did not pay Defendant in excess of $2 million Defendant would publicly accuse Plaintiff of sexual harassment, coercion, and assault by filing the draft complaint.”
In addition to Gilman’s social media posts, Bleckner says his former lover’s conduct in the Hamptons undercuts any possibility that he was there against his will.
“During this period, studio assistants who worked for Plaintiff, and a neighbor of Plaintiff, periodically visited Plaintiff’s house in East Hampton,” the complaint states. “At no point did Defendant indicate to any of them that he was being sexually harassed, coerced, or assaulted by Plaintiff. In fact, Defendant visited Plaintiff’s neighbor’s house and spent several hours alone with the neighbor discussing how Defendant wanted to throw a dance party at Plaintiff’s East Hampton Property.”
The New York Post described Bleckner as a longtime AIDS activist and artist known for minimalist works, who served as a United Nations goodwill ambassador in the fight against human trafficking.
Gilman did not immediately return messages seeking comment, according to the Post. The complaint includes an address for him in Los Angeles.