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- Friday, Dec. 1, 2023
Entertainment consultant killed by woman who stalked his film director friend, prosecutors say
- LOS ANGELES (AP)
A high-profile entertainment marketing consultant was targeted by a woman who had been stalking and threatening a film director friend of his before she fatally shot him after her forcing her way inside his Los Angeles home, according to prosecutors and court records obtained Thursday.
This week's slaying of Michael Latt sent shockwaves through Hollywood as the suspect faces charges of murder and burglary. Latt, 33, had worked on projects with filmmakers including Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay, as well as rap artist Common.
He was pronounced dead Monday at a hospital. Prosecutors allege that Jameelah Elena Michl, 36, knocked on his home's door and forced herself inside once it was open.
She had sought out Latt's home "after she targeted him for being friends with a woman she had been stalking," the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a news release Thursday. She allegedly fired at him with a semi-automatic handgun.
The suspect previously had a restraining order filed against her by a friend of Latt's, film director A.V. Rockwell, who said in court filings that Michl worked as an extra in one of her films, "A Thousand And One." After production concluded, Michl began to stalk Rockwell, the director claimed in a June application for the order.
Rockwell said after she did not respond to Michl's overtures for a personal relationship, the woman hand-delivered alarming letters to the director's home threatening self-harm.
"My Glock is loaded as I write this," Michl wrote in one letter, according to the court filings. "One pull of the trigger and I'll be free."
Rockwell was not at Latt's house when he was shot, authorities said.
Michl's arraignment in the killing was continued to Dec. 15, so she has not yet entered a plea, and prosecutors are seeking $3 million bail. If convicted, she could face a sentence of life in prison. Michl will be represented by a public defender, though one had not yet been assigned to her case, the public defender's office said.
Detectives seized Michl's vehicle, which she had been living in, as evidence. She stayed at the scene and was taken into custody.
In January, Latt and Rockwell both attended the Sundance Film Festival, where Rockwell's movie won the Grand Jury Prize. Latt posted a photo with Rockwell on Instagram with the caption, "Congratulations to @AVRockwell on your incredible feature film directorial debut, A Thousand and One."
Michl sent "at least 5 extremely long and threatening emails and text messages," repeatedly called Rockwell's cell phone and approached the director at public events, the documents show.
"As you continue to bask in the glory of 'A Thousand and One,' l want you to remember, and not forget all the hell that people went through to help bring your masterpiece to the screen," Michl wrote in an April 29 email.
On May 3, Michl wrote again, threatening suicide.
"I'm taking my Glock into Griffith Park and not coming out," she wrote in an email.
Rockwell got the restraining order reissued on numerous occasions, according to court documents. A representative for Rockwell did not immediately respond to an email Thursday seeking comment from the director.
Latt's marketing firm, Lead with Love, focused on social impact, and he was inspired to start the business after working on Coogler's film "Fruitvale Station," about the 2009 fatal police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, that starred Michael B. Jordan, and wanted to direct his efforts toward social justice movements.
He was born into a show business family: His mother, Michelle Satter, is one of the founding directors of the Sundance Institute's artists programs, where she has helped filmmakers such as Coogler and Quentin Tarantino early in their careers. His father, David Latt, is a film producer, and his brother is an agent.
Latt had also worked at the Sundance Institute, which issued a statement on behalf of his family.
"He dedicated his career to serving others, employing storytelling, art, and various mediums to create enduring change and galvanizing communities with hope, love, and inspiration," the statement said. "Michael will never be forgotten and his legacy and work will carry on through his family, his friends, and his colleagues."
Latt also worked with Common, on the Oscars campaign for the song "Letter to the Free," and with DuVernay. Together, they launched a concert prison tour and helped developed Common's nonprofit Imagine Justice.
"The moment I realized that I could use my skill set for social good, I decided to dedicate the rest of my career to helping others, empowering storytellers of color, and fighting injustice wherever it stands," Latt told Forbes in 2019. "Through stories and art, we can showcase incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women's humanity, shine a light on injustices in the system and shift the narrative about how we talk about the issues."
Rockwell's film " A Thousand and One," starring Teyana Taylor as a single mother, won a Gotham Award on Monday night for breakthrough director.
Associated Press Film Writer Lindsey Bahr contributed.