WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – High-profile attorney Marc Kasowitz is demanding “extreme sanctions” against opposing counsel in a Palm Beach case over vicious hate mail that accused a Kasowitz client of sexually assaulting a child.
The rancor keeps mounting in the long-running case in which Kasowitz client Harold Peerenboom claims Marvel Entertainment chairman Isaac Perlmutter initiated a shocking hate mail campaign during a neighborhood dispute in their beachside community.
Now widely known for his role as President Donald Trump’s personal counsel in the Russian campaign meddling investigation, Kasowitz has been representing Peerenboom in the hate mail lawsuit since 2013.
He and Peerenboom want the court to strike Perlmutter’s counterclaims and hold the Marvel chairman and his attorneys liable for Peerenboom’s legal fees in light of an “incontrovertible record of their confessed wrongful conduct and pattern of misrepresentations to this Court,” the filing states.
The demand for sanctions was submitted in response to Perlmutter’s recent motion, which said Kasowitz’s firm potentially suppressed evidence that a disgruntled former employee of Peerenboom’s company was the one responsible for the hate mail.
The Perlmutter motion made a dizzying accusation: that Peerenboom acted “in parallel” with the former employee to frame Perlmutter and Perlmutter’s wife for the hate mail.
Peerenboom was “likely complicit — or at least indifferent” to the hate mail as he was bent on blaming it on Perlmutter and extracting defamation damages from the Marvel mogul, according to the motion.
The motion assails Kasowitz directly: “Based on the course of these proceedings to date, it appears that Peerenboom’s propensity for misrepresentation has infected his counsel, Kasowitz.”
In his demand for sanctions, Peerenboom counters that “it does not come close to being plausible” that he would incur massive legal bills and subject himself to over-the-top defamatory letters as part of some “moronic and self-defeating scheme” to shakedown the Perlmutters.
As for the allegations against Kasowitz, the filing says that there is “no basis … to assert that a reputable, long-established law firm is so desperate for money that members of the firm entered into a lunatic criminal conspiracy to extort the multi-billionaire Perlmutter.”
The hate mail at the center of the case was ruthless by all accounts. It contained unsubstantiated claims that Peerenboom had sexually assaulted a child and was involved in a double murder plot.
Sent to Peerenboom’s business associates, neighbors and others, the letters began appearing around the time of a dispute over the tennis center in Peerenboom and Perlmutter’s upscale Palm Beach community of Sloan’s Curve. Peerenboom challenged the community’s retaining of a tennis center manager supported by Perlmutter, sparking a neighborhood controversy that angered the Marvel chairman to the point where he initiated the hate mail campaign, Peerenboom alleges.
While he denies involvement with the extreme defamatory letters, Perlmutter recently conceded that he sent out to various friends and neighbors a set of newspaper articles including coverage of Canadian political controversy surrounding Peerenboom and his past position with the Toronto Harbour Commission. Perlmutter says he let the articles speak for themselves, and did not add any negative commentary.
The Perlmutter motion alleges that these “innocuous mailings” gave Peerenboom and/or his former employee the idea to frame Perlmutter for a hate mail attack.
In the latest filing, Peerenboom characterizes Perlmutter’s revelation (that he mailed the newspaper articles) as a “confession” forced out by discovery in the case. Peerenboom has been pushing to depose a Marvel employee allegedly involved in sending out the articles, and Perlmutter was consequently under pressure to come clean, Peerenboom claims.
He says Perlmutter’s attorneys dumped dozens of pages of “scurrilous and false” material into court documents, in an attempt to obscure the confession with a headline-grabbing narrative of a conspiracy to frame and extort Perlmutter.
It was a “media hit job,” Peerenboom says.
Perlmutter’s attorneys improperly “gave a preview of [the] salacious and false claims” of conspiracy to a Hollywood Reporter journalist, Peerenboom says.
“Those out-of-court statements to the press violate the professional ethics code embodied in the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar,” the Peerenboom filing alleges.
Perlmutter for his part maintains that a Palm Beach Police report shows that the disgruntled ex-employee of Peerenboom’s executive-placement company was behind the hate mail.
The police report states that after customs officers managed to intercept a Canadian package containing threats against Peerenboom, investigators determined the sender was the former employee. The man was not charged, as prosecutors in Florida believed there was not enough evidence to pursue a criminal case against him.
The parties in the winding Palm Beach litigation meanwhile are still debating the legitimacy of test results comparing samples of DNA from the hate mail to samples of the Perlmutters’ DNA. The couple’s DNA was purportedly lifted without their knowledge from beverage bottles and documents they handled during a 2013 deposition in another lawsuit tied to the tennis center dispute.
Perlmutter has pending counterclaims against Peerenboom over the DNA collection, claiming it violated a Florida law that governs unauthorized analysis of a person’s DNA. Peerenboom allegedly tried to legitimize the DNA collection after-the-fact, when he filed the first incarnation of the litigation as a pure bill of discovery that sought court authorization to obtain genetic material from the Perlmutters and other supposed hate mail suspects.
“Although the Perlmutters and the Court did not know it at the time, the Perlmutters’ DNA had already been fraudulently collected and illegally tested, and the Court’s after-the-fact authorization would have given Peerenboom and Kasowitz the tools necessary to whitewash the fraudulent and criminal conduct that had occurred,” Perlmutter’s May motion states.
But Peerenboom insists he felt it necessary to file the bill of discovery because he “viewed the DNA evidence he developed as solely part of the criminal investigation.”
“That divide was necessary to minimize the potential for the civil action interfering with the then-ongoing criminal investigation. Thus, omitting disclosure to the Court that a DNA report had already been provided to the police was not some kind of nefarious or improper omission,” Peerenboom argues in the latest filing.
The court ultimately shot down Peerenboom’s bill-of-discovery approach, prompting him to refile the action as a full-fledged defamation case in 2014.
The Palm Beach County judge fielding the litigation wrote last year that the DNA collection amounted to a fraud that exploited the court’s subpoena powers for ulterior motives.
Kasowitz says he was retained by Peerenboom after the DNA collection and played no part in it.
As noted in the Peerenboom filing, the attorney and his firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP count President Donald Trump as one of several high-profile clients. Kasowitz recently made international headlines when he issued statements on Trump’s behalf in connection with the controversy over Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey.
Perlmutter is represented by attorneys from prominent lawyer Roy Black’s firm, which has reportedly handled a bevy of celebrity clients including Justin Bieber and Alex Rodriguez.
In addition to demanding sanctions, the Peerenboom filing asks the court to deny defense counsel’s request to cancel Mrs. Perlmutter’s upcoming deposition. Though she has given multiple depositions in the related criminal and civil cases, Peerenboom says Mrs. Perlmutter has not yet been deposed in this lawsuit.
Peerenboom also wants the court to deny defense counsel’s request to re-depose his private investigator Steven Reesor.
The parties are in dispute over when Reesor found out about the Palm Beach Police’s putative hate mail suspect (the former Peerenboom employee), and whether the information was concealed from Perlmutter’s attorneys.