Tangled Tale of a Norman Rockwell Painting


     LAS VEGAS (CN) – An art dealer who bought a stolen Norman Rockwell painting at auction and sold it to Steven Spielberg claims the original owner knew the painting was up for auction and even got a cut from its sale, the current owner claims in Federal Court.
     Jack Solomon sued FBI Director Robert Mueller III and Steven Spielberg in May 2007 in Federal Court.
     This week Judy Goffman Cutler sued Solomon, Christopher Marinello and the Art Loss Register.
     Both complaints were filed in Las Vegas Federal Court.
     According to the lawsuits, Solomon owned the painting, known as “Russian Schoolroom” in 1973. The painting was stolen from a gallery in Clayton, Mo., on June 24, 1973.
     It appeared at auction in New Orleans in 1988, where Goffman Cutler bought it.
     Cutler sold the painting to Steven Spielberg, then a longtime client, in 1989.
     Cutler claims in her complaint that Solomon and defendant Art Loss Register “immediately began a campaign to try to coerce Spielberg to quickly relinquish possession of Russian Schoolroom.”
     Art Loss Register, through its attorney, defendant Marinello, wrote to Spielberg, stating that it had determined that Cutler “did not have the ability to convey good title to” him, and offered to help the director in “obtaining reimbursement” from Cutler, Cutler says in her complaint.
     Solomon, in 2007, then sued Spielberg and the FBI. Marinello is listed as one of Solomon’s attorneys in that complaint. But Marinello would later testify in a separate proceeding that he never was Solomon’s attorney and that he agreed to add his name as the attorney of record in order to “give it some kind of added cachet or publicity that the Art Loss Register, as an organization, was blessing [Solomon’s] cause.”
     “Spielberg brought Cutler into the Russian Schoolroom litigation as a third-party defendant,” Cutler says in her complaint. “In order to protect Spielberg and to remove him from the Russian Schoolroom litigation, Cutler exchanged a painting of equal or greater value with him. Thereafter, Spielberg and the FBI were dismissed from the Russian Schoolroom litigation and the ownership dispute proceeded between Solomon and Cutler.
     “Subsequently, Cutler asserted a third-party complaint against Art Loss Register. After she did so, Marinello withdrew as attorney for Solomon.”
     Cutler claims she sought documents from Solomon and Art Loss Register, both of whom objected, “based upon a supposed attorney-client privilege between Solomon and Marinello of Art Loss Register.”
     Cutler says she subpoenaed the FBI for the documents, and the FBI delivered them in January 2009.
     “The FBI documents provided clear proof that Solomon knew of the 1988 auction of Russian Schoolroom in advance, consented to it and received a portion of the proceeds, which proceeds were paid by Cutler herself,” Cutler’s complaint states.
     “Despite the clear proof in the FBI documents, Solomon continued to pursue the Russian Schoolroom litigation.”
     Cutler claims that Solomon “testified falsely” that he didn’t know of the 1988 auction in advance, denied that he consented to it and denied receiving a portion of the proceeds.
     She claims that a court ruled in her favor in 2010 and awarded her possession of the painting, finding that Solomon knew of the auction, consented to the sale and got a part of the proceeds.
     Cutler seeks punitive damages for abuse of process and conspiracy.
     She is represented by Eric Dobberstein with Hamrick & Evans.

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