LOS ANGELES – A reporter for People magazine claims paparazzi drugged the late actor Heath Ledger and videotaped him against his will during a seven-hour cocaine party at the Chateau Marmont Hotel. The paparazzi, who threw the party, made $1 million by publishing the footage after Ledger died, the Jane Doe plaintiff claims in Superior Court.
She sued the photographers and their employer, Splash News and Picture Agency, claiming fraud and intrusion.
Doe says she and two photographers met Ledger at a Screen Actors Guild Award after party. She claims her date, Darren Banks, and his friend, Eric Munn, invited Ledger to her hotel room, and concealed their professions from Ledger.
Here is what happened next, according to the complaint:
In the hotel room, Banks and Munn gave Ledger cocaine, which Doe says they bought with Splash’s money. Ledger also had some of his own cocaine. The three men snorted the cocaine, then Munn left the room. Eventually, Doe saw that Munn was hiding on the balcony, shooting video footage through an open window. Ledger got angry when he discovered that the men were paparazzi. Munn bought more cocaine for Ledger in an effort to calm him down.
“However, his calm state did not last for long,” the complaint states. “At least once an hour, for nearly seven hours, Mr. Ledger would remember that he had been videotaped and got upset all over again.”
Doe says she and Ledger demanded that the two men destroy the video. Munn left the room with the video, claiming he was going to throw the tape away, but he took the tape to his car instead. Munn and Banks “kept insisting” that the tape would “never see the light of day,” the lawsuit states.
Then, Doe says, Munn invited his cocaine dealer to the party. She says she told Munn to leave at least five times, but he refused. Munn and the dealer raided the plaintiff’s minibar, racking up $700 in charges. “At least three times she tried to bodily lift up Munn from the couch, in an attempt to get him out of her room,” the lawsuit states. But Munn would not go.
Doe says she forgot about the incident for several months. But shortly after Ledger’s death, Entertainment Tonight ran the footage, calling it the “Heath Ledger Drug Tape.”
Doe claims Entertainment Tonight made it appear that the video depicted hotel guests partying with Ledger, rather than a paparazzi entrapment scheme.
“Splash spun the story so that it sounded like they had purchased the video from a hotel guest and not from their staffers, who first drugged Mr. Ledger and then videotaped him, with Plaintiff’s image and voice clearly present in the background,” the lawsuit states.
Entertainment Tonight allegedly bought part of the video for $200,000. Splash has sold the video all over the world, according to the complaint. The video also allegedly shows the plaintiff, and contains her voice, which is enhanced with subtitles.
“In short,” the lawsuit states, “employees of Splash drugged Mr. Ledger, a known drug user, and then videotaped him without his consent for the purpose of damaging his reputation and to make money. Plaintiff was also victimized and duped by Defendants so that Defendants could create a story by getting this actor to take drugs and then secretly film him and exploit his illness.”
Represented by Neville Johnson of Beverly Hills, Doe demands treble damages for fraud, negligence, trespass, intrusion, privacy invasion, unjust enrichment, emotional distress, interference with prospective economic advantage, and other charges.