Attorney Alleges Odd, Frightening Encounter

     SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – A Utah attorney claims he was assaulted in his office by “large and rough” men from New York, who said his “family would be in trouble” if he refused to intervene in a dispute over a “horse film” that sparked previous lawsuits.
     Joseph G. Pia sued Supernova Media, Joseph Di Palma, Joycelyn Engle aka Joycelyn Di Palma, Julianne Michelle, and 10 Does – including the two alleged assailants – in Salt Lake County Court.
     Pia claims the muscle men approached him at his office in downtown Salt Lake City in 2009.
     “This action arises from a disagreement between the parties involving the production of a feature film entitled ‘Shannon’s Rainbow’ (the ‘film’), which has subsequently been released under the title ‘Amazing Racer.’ The production and distribution of the film has been plagued by numerous wrongful acts committed by the defendants against Mr. Pia and others,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Beginning on or around November 2008, and continuing to the present time, the defendants (and other parties involved in the film) have been engaged in a dispute (the ‘dispute’) over the ownership of, and control over, three limited liability companies associated with the film. These are Shannon’s Rainbow LLC, a Utah limited liability company (‘SR Utah’), Shannon’s Rainbow LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (‘SR Delaware’), and Shannon’s Rainbow Production LLC, a Pennsylvania limited liability company (‘SR Pennsylvania’ and with SR Utah and SR Delaware, the ‘SR entities’).
     “The SR entities were created by persons affiliated with SummitWorks LLC (‘SummitWorks’ and persons affiliated thereto, the ‘SummitWorks parties’). The SummitWorks parties contracted with the defendants to make and obtain investments in the SR entities, and to perform various roles in the production of the film. The defendants misrepresented their ability to perform their duties, and jeopardized the success of the film by, inter alia, seeking excessive compensation for their roles, attempting to force the SR entities to distribute the film in an unrealistically expensive manner, and wrongfully asserting that the defendants, rather than the SummitWorks parties, had control over the SR entities.
     “The real substance of the dispute was that the defendants wanted to control the SR entities so as to use the release of the film, which stars [defendant Julianne] Michelle, to launch her movie career. The SummitWorks parties, which included the film’s writers, and most of the producers, wanted to manage and operate the SR entities in such a manner as to maximize the return on their investments of time and money.
     “The dispute included: i) whether the defendants, or SummitWorks, held controlling interests in the SR entities, and therefore the rights to control the manner of distribution of the film; and ii) whether the defendants had contractual rights to control the manner of distribution of the film independent of the issue of control over the SR entities.”
     Pia claims the Shannon’s Rainbow entities hired to do legal work, and that he never had – and does not have – any interest in the entities or the film.
     “Mr. Pia, by and through his law firms, was initially hired by the SR entities and the SummitWorks parties to handle legal work involved in corporate formation and contracts necessary to produce the film.
     “Mr. Pia’s role expanded when he was hired by the SR entities and SummitWorks to represent them against the defendants in the dispute,” the 18-page complaint states.
     Pia claims the assailants approached him on a summer morning in front of co-workers and building staff.
     “On information and belief, each of the defendants (including Does), conspired and ultimately agreed that the assailants, acting with the authority and on behalf of each of the other defendants, would travel to Utah to threaten Mr. Pia and his family with death or injury, and thereby induce Mr. Pia to sign a document that the defendants believed would advance their position in the dispute,” the complaint states.
     “On Monday, August 17, 2009 at approximately 8:51 a.m., the assailants arrived at the Wells Fargo Building located at 299 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City in a yellow cab.
     “The assailants entered the building and proceeded to the elevator that they used to reach the 22nd floor where Stucki Steele Pia Anderson & Rencher (‘SSPAR’), was located. Mr. Pia was a partner with SSPAR at the time.”
     Pia claims that a security manager saw the muscle men leave the cab and enter the building, and “noted their singular large and rough appearance, which is confirmed by photographic and video evidence.”
     The complaint describes “Assailant #1” as a “black male, approximately 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 300 pounds.”
     “Assailant #2,” Pia says, “is a white male, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing approximately 250 pounds.”
     The complaint states: “The assailants approached the receptionist and said that they were from out of town and asked to see Mr. Pia.
     “The receptionist walked to Mr. Pia’s office and stated that there were two odd-looking men to see him.
     “Mr. Pia walked to the front desk and there encountered the assailants.
     “Assailant #2 said that the two were from New York and needed to speak with him
     in private.
     “Mr. Pia directed them to the conference room. After they entered, one of the assailants closed the door. Mr. Pia sat down and Assailant #2 sat directly across from him. Assailant #1 stood next to Mr. Pia in a menacing fashion.
     “Assailant #2 stated that they were here to talk about the ‘film.’ Mr. Pia inquired what film they were referring to, and they responded the ‘horse film.’ They said that they were ‘here because some investors in the film from New York put a lot of money in [the project] and it was now bigger than the lawsuit.’
     “The assailants then stated that they knew all about Mr. Pia’s family and named by memory each of the individuals in his family in a threatening tone.
     “They recited Mr. Pia’s home address and claimed that they had a ‘friend’ sitting outside of Mr. Pia’s home in a car watching his family at that very moment. The assailants continued that they would ‘hate to see any harm come to them,’ but that if Mr. Pia refused to sign a document they had brought that ‘something very bad could happen.’ They said they only had about 10 minutes and if they did not call off their guy, Mr. Pia’s ‘family would be in trouble.’
     “Mr. Pia asked to review the document Assailant #2 was holding. Assailant #2 refused to allow him to see the paper until they were in Mr. Pia’s own office. The assailants demanded that Mr. Pia personally ‘type it up word for word’ on his own computer and on his own letterhead.
     “The assailants demanded that Mr. Pia lead them to his office, which he did.
     “Once in Mr. Pia’s office, they closed the door and the assailants took a similar
     posture as before: Assailant #1 stood next to him behind his desk, and Assailant #2 sat across the table from him. Mr. Pia has a clear glass door, and his firm’s office manager, Lisa Blake, sits directly outside of his office. She could see into the office and witnessed the two men’s actions.
     “Assailant #2 handed Mr. Pia the document and said he had better be able to type it in 5 minutes, because their other guy would be calling, and if they did not have the document signed, ‘bad things would start happening.’ Mr. Pia immediately started typing.
     “While he was typing, the assailants stated in an aggressive manner that they knew about Frank Johnson (the director of the film and partner in SummitWorks, the manager of Shannon’s Rainbow LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and its affiliated entities) and alleged that he had stolen money. They also said that they knew ‘Kelly’ (assumedly Kelly Nelson, one of the partners of SummitWorks) and the ‘guys from Pennsylvania’ (assumedly the screenwriters John Mowod and Larry Richert). The assailants said they would soon be ‘visiting’ Frank and the other guys.” (Parentheses and brackets as in complaint.)
     When Pia finished typing and signed the document, he says, the men grabbed his arm and said he needed to “go outside and take a walk” with them.
     “Concerned for his family’s safety, he again complied with their demands,” the lawsuit states.
     It continues: “At 9:19 a.m., the assailants and Mr. Pia walked out of Mr. Pia’s office to the elevator lobby on the 22nd floor.
     “As they walked to the elevator lobby, Assailant #2 looked closely at the document Mr. Pia had typed and signed and complained that Mr. Pia’s signature on the document was too small and did not look like a ‘real signature.’ They ordered him to ‘write it out longer.’ Mr. Pia did as he was told and wrote out his name next to his signature: ‘Joseph G. Pia.’ Since there was no table, he put the paper on the wall on wrote on it there. While he was writing, Assailant #2 said it was still wrong and made him re-sign in a more spread out fashion. Assailant #2 studied the document one last time and satisfied himself that it was fine. He then folded up the letter.
     “The assailants escorted Mr. Pia into the elevator with them, and together the three men went down to the main lobby, and walked out of the building to Main Street. As they exited the building, Assailant #2 put his hand on Mr. Pia’s shoulder and said that his life and his family’s lives would ‘be ok’ if he was a ‘good boy’ and ‘did as he was told.’
     “They finished up by stating that they would be in touch with Mr. Pia again in two weeks, and if all went smoothly they would pay him $200,000 in cash. Assailant #2 held Mr. Pia by the arm for emphasis. Mr. Pia then went back in the building and the assailants left.”
     Pia claims this “willful and malicious conduct” was carried out with “knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of” his rights.
     “On information and belief, the defendants other than the assailants hired, paid for, encouraged, aided, abetted, and/or arranged travel and logistics for the assailants to commit the acts alleged herein,” the complaint states.
     “On information and belief, defendants’ scheme was to, among other things, use the document they coerced Mr. Pia to sign to establish their position in the dispute.
     “Thus, the defendants, including Does, formed a common scheme to commit extortion and perform illegal and tortious acts against Mr. Pia.”
     Defendant Joseph Di Palma – an attorney and writer – began producing a celebrity discussion show, “The DiPalma Forum at UNLV,” in 1999, according to movie industry website IMDB.com.
     In a 2009 lawsuit , DiPalma claimed the SR entities had created a “shadow company” to seize control of “Shannon’s Rainbow.”
     In 2010 he sued SummitWorks and affiliates, claiming they squandered his $1 million investment in the film and refused to distribute it in the United States.
     As Courthouse News reported at the time, Di Palma claimed he hoped the film would provide exposure for his daughter, defendant Michelle, and “propel” her career.
     Michelle has appeared in movies including “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” and the TV shows “Who’s the Boss?” and “Roseanne,” according to IMDB.com.
     Defendant Engle, a talent manager and Di Palma’s wife, represents Michelle and Tara Reid, among others, according to the industry website.
     Defendant Supernova Media is “wholly owned and operated by Engle, DiPalma and/or Michelle,” Pia says in his lawsuit.
     “Shannon’s Rainbow,” or “Amazing Racer,” features Michelle, Eric Roberts, Darryl Hannah, Claire Forlani, Louis Gossett Jr. and Steve Guttenberg, according to IMDB.
     The film is about a teenager who “faces and overcomes hardship and emotional trauma after the death of her father through the caring for a horse and the love of a mother she never knew she had.”
     Pia seeks $500,000, plus punitive damages, for assault, battery and false imprisonment.
     He is represented by John Mertens with Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss.

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