LOS ANGELES (CN) – Ryan O’Neal claims a “delusional fan of the late iconic actress Farrah Fawcett” defamed him with false accusations that he stole an Andy Warhol portrait of his longtime partner, which induced the University of Texas to sue him to recover the portrait.
O’Neal sued Craig Nevius for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, in Superior Court. O’Neal filed his complaint one week after the University of Texas at Austin sued him, demanding return of the Warhol portrait.
According to O’Neals complaint, Nevius is a “delusional fan of the late iconic actress Farrah Fawcett. Nevius is obsessed with Ms. Fawcett, and he is deeply jealous of her relationship with her longtime romantic partner, the Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actor Ryan O’Neal.
“Two years after Ms. Fawcett tragically succumbed to cancer, Nevius continues to harass O’Neal by making false, malicious and defamatory accusations and characterizations about O’Neal and his purported theft, possession and concealment of a famous Warhol portrait depicting Ms. Fawcett to the media and the University of Texas.
“Contrary to Nevius’ lies, it is indisputable that the Warhol portrait is the property of O’Neal. O’Neal met Warhol in the 1970s in New York and they became good friends. When O’Neal later introduced Warhol to Ms. Fawcett 10 years later in the 1980s, Warhol created two portraits of her; Warhol gave one of the portraits to Ms. Fawcett and the other portrait to O’Neal. The portrait that O’Neal received from Warhol is one of his most prized possessions and a precious memento of his life with Ms. Fawcett. Given the tremendous sentimental value of the portrait, O’Neal has no intention of ever parting with it during his lifetime, and upon his death he intends to bequeath it to his son and Ms. Fawcett’s only child, Redmond O’Neal. At all times O’Neal has been candid about his ownership of his portrait, and he has never concealed the fact that it is in his possession.
“Nevius’ false, malicious and defamatory accusations that O’Neal stole the Warhol portrait are a desperate attempt to draw attention to himself by fabricating a controversy where none exists. Sadly, Nevius’ malicious behavior is nothing new, and it is consistent with his prior despicable conduct. In 2009, Nevius intentionally sold private, personal medical information about Ms. Fawcett’s battle with cancer to tabloid journalists, distributed film footage of her battle with cancer and other materials proprietary to Ms. Fawcett and third parties, and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company that Ms. Fawcett established for the production of the critically acclaimed documentary about her battle with cancer, ‘Farrah’s Story.’ Now, Nevius is making false, malicious and defamatory accusations to the media and the University of Texas (Ms. Fawcett left her artwork to the university) in an attempt to ruin O’Neal’s reputation and strip him of the Warhol portrait while drawing attention to himself. [Parentheses in complaint.]
“In part as a result of Nevius’ accusations, the University of Texas has demanded that O’Neal turn over the portrait to the university. Apparently based on the advice offered to it by Nevius and Nevius’ representations to the media, the university wrongly claims that O’Neal’s portrait was Ms. Fawcett’s property when she died, and therefore it must be turned over to the university and made part of its vast art collection. The university was informed in June 2010 – 13 months ago – that O’Neal possesses the Warhol portrait. The university was notified of Mr. O’Neal’s possession of the portrait at the time when the Farrah Fawcett Living Trust was in the process of transferring Ms. Fawcett’s artwork to the university; the fact that O’Neal possesses the portrait was never concealed from the university at any time. The university already possesses the portrait that Warhol gave to Ms. Fawcett. In short, the university is taking full advantage of the false, malicious and defamatory accusations of Nevius and has elected to wage war for the portrait and demanded that O’Neal surrender it. There is absolutely no basis to support the demands made by the university and it is foolhardy for the university to rely on Nevius’ accusations.”
The University of Texas, however, is not named as a defendant in O’Neal’s complaint.
O’Neal claims Nevius’ accusations stem from his personal vendetta against O’Neal.
“Tellingly, according to a New York Times article dated May 29, 2011 entitled ‘The Long Goodbye’ about the production of [Fawcett’s documentary] ‘Farrah’s Story,’ in late 2010 Nevius regularly fielded tearful calls from his own mother urging him to move on from his vendetta against O’Neal and his obsession with Ms. Fawcett. The old adage ‘Mother Knows Best’ was never more true than in this case,” the complaint states.
O’Neal claims Nevius met Fawcett in 2005 and that “claiming to have production experience, Nevius surreptitiously ingratiated himself into Fawcett’s life, contacting her multiple times per day and taking it upon himself to act as her personal assistant without pay.”
He says Fawcett let Nevius help with the production of “Farrah’s Story,” and gave him access to confidential medical information.
“Unfortunately, when Nevius showed Ms. Fawcett and NBC his work on the documentary, it was clear that he was unskilled and that his work was amateurish and sensationalized – his cut of the documentary looked like tabloid journalism, contrary to the wishes of Ms. Fawcett and could not be broadcast on national television,” the complaint states. “As a result, Ms. Fawcett requested that O’Neal take creative control of ‘Farrah’s Story,’ thereby ending Nevius’ creative involvement with the documentary. In part because of Nevius’ emotional instability, the last time Ms. Fawcett saw or spoke with Nevius was in the early spring of 2009, shortly after he had delivered his cut of the documentary.”
After Fawcett cut him off, Nevius retaliated by selling her personal medical information and footage of her documentary and by making false accusations about O’Neal, according to the complaint.
In June this year, “‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Star Magazine’ began reporting that a ‘missing’ Warhol portrait of Ms. Fawcett had been tracked down by police and private investigators at the home of O’Neal, and that O’Neal was under investigation for the theft, possession and concealment of the Warhol portrait allegedly worth $30 million,” the complaint states. “The stories are replete with false, malicious and defamatory accusations and characterizations about O’Neal. The Warhol portrait was never ‘missing,’ nor were police or others conducting investigations of O’Neal; O’Neal has always been candid about his ownership and possession of the portrait, and the University of Texas was fully informed of his possession of the portrait by attorneys for the Farrah Fawcett Living Trust at least 13 months ago in June 2010.
“Nevius was interviewed by both ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Star Magazine’ and claimed to have helped in an ‘investigation’ of O’Neal regarding the portrait.”
O’Neal says Nevius was the “primary source” for the TV and magazine reports. Neither media outlet is a defendant. The only defendants are Nevius and Does 1-50.
O’Neal adds: “there is no known pending police or private investigation of O’Neal for the purported theft and possession of the Warhol portrait – nor is there any need for an investigation because O’Neal has always been candid about his ownership and possession of the portrait. In short, there is no $30 million Warhol portrait that was ‘missing’ and recently ‘found’ and Mr. O’Neal has stolen nothing.”
O’Neal seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Martin Singer with Lavely & Singer.