Name Dropped in Porn Actor’s Extortion Trial

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A male escort testified Wednesday that he feared for his safety while talking to the FBI about an alleged $1.5 million extortion attempt because of a “powerful” man he identified in court as David Geffen.
     The prosecution’s witness Justin Griggs mentioned Geffen’s name to stunned silence in the courtroom during cross-examination in the criminal trial of gay porn actor Teofil Brank, who is charged with extorting Florida tycoon Donald Burns.
     Efforts to contact Geffen – billionaire philanthropist, founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of Dreamworks SKG – or his representatives were unsuccessful.
     Brank was arrested in an FBI sting at a Starbucks near LAX as he tried to blackmail Burns for $1 million, prosecutors say. Brank already had persuaded Burns to hand over his Audi R8 sports car and wire $500,000 to a Wells Fargo account, according to the government.
     The 14-person jury heard during two days of trial that Brank extorted Burns and threatened to ruin his reputation by posting sexually explicit photos on Twitter. Brank made the demands via text message from his smartphone after posting comments aimed at Burns on the social media site, the government says.
     Griggs has worked for the Sean Cody pay gay pornography site. He testified that Burns had paid him up to $3,000 for sex.
     Griggs mentioned Geffen, who is openly gay, after he was pressed by defense attorney Ashfaq Chowdhury, and over the objections of federal prosecutor Eddie Jauregui, who questioned the relevance of the testimony.
     Chowdhury asked Griggs about a July 6 telephone interview with the FBI, noting that Griggs had mentioned that he “didn’t want to give details about an individual because he was very powerful and you feared for the safety if you disclose information.”
     Moments before, Chowdhury had questioned Griggs about a “gift” of dental work he had received, asking if it had come from Burns. Griggs told the court that it had come from another “friend.”
     U.S. District Judge John Walter overruled the objection, leading to the following exchange:
     “Should I give you the name of the person?” Griggs said, according to a court transcript.
     “Yes,” Chowdhury said.
     “Your honor, I don’t understand how that’s relevant,” Jauregui said.
     “Answer the question,” Judge Walter told Griggs.
     “David Gaffen,” [sic] said Griggs.
     Griggs testified that Burns had paid him and other escorts to travel for group sex to his homes on the island of Nantucket and to Palm Beach in Florida. He said Burns paid for a private jet for a trip to the island, and paid airfares for the sessions at his Palm Beach residence.
     Griggs testified that he had traveled three or four times to Palm Beach.
     “It was really just hanging out, surfing, grilling out, going to dinner, and then we would have sex – group sex,” Griggs said.
     Burns paid the men the next morning with envelopes full of cash, Griggs said.
     Griggs inadvertently revealed his earnings in the sex industry. He said he had asked the multimillionaire to give him $12,000 after he caught a sexually transmitted disease. He said the amount he asked of Burns was what he had expected to earn over the next year.
     During his morning testimony, Burns said he had contacted executives at Sean Cody to see if they wanted to film gay porn at his property, identified as the renowned Razor Residence in La Jolla.
     He offered the filmmakers use of the 11,000-square-foot oceanfront estate for a nominal fee of $10. Designed by Wallace Cunningham, the residence has reportedly been featured in ads for VISA and Calvin Klein.
     Sean Cody filmmaker and executive Jason Bumpus, and Matthew Power, an executive with Sean Cody’s parent company MindGeek, testified that they had considered filming at the property. But the company abandoned the plan because of privacy concerns due to the residence’s translucent glass facade.
     “It’s a pretty big deal,” Bumpus said of the San Diego-area residence, testifying that Burns had wanted a pornographic porn shoot at the home so he could see “how it ran.”
     Bumpus also noted Sean Cody’s frustration that models had prostituted themselves to Burns. He said that actors and models would cancel shoots at the “last moment” to “work” with the tycoon.
     Burns is chairman of Internet phone company Magicjack. He was a co-founder of the Telco Communications Group and heads the Donald A. Burns Foundation.
     He said during his morning testimony that he was aware that by paying the men for sex he was engaging in prostitution.
     “It was a way to have sexual contact without commitment and I had the resources to do it,” Banks told prosecutor Kimberly Jaimez, adding that he not been granted immunity from criminal prosecution.
     Prosecution and defense rested their cases Wednesday afternoon. Closing arguments were scheduled to begin Thursday, followed by jury deliberations.

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