Monday, August 19, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Friday, Jul. 5, 2019
Kevin Spacey accuser drops lawsuit against actor
In this June 3, 2019 file photo, actor Kevin Spacey attends a pretrial hearing at district court in Nantucket, Mass. He is accused of groping the teenage son of a former Boston TV anchor in 2016 in the crowded bar at the Club Car in Nantucket. On Wednesday, June 26, a civil lawsuit was filed by the man who claims Spacey groped him. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
BOSTON (AP) -- 

A young man who says Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket bar in 2016 has dropped his lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor, his lawyer said Friday.

Spacey still faces a criminal charge. He pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in January.

His accuser's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced in an email that the suit filed June 26 in Nantucket Superior Court has been voluntarily dismissed. No reason was provided either by Garabedian or in the court filing. Garabedian said he would have no further comment. A telephone message was left at his office.

According to the court filing, the suit was dismissed "with prejudice," which means it cannot be refiled.

An email was left Friday requesting comment from Alan Jackson, Spacey's attorney. Jackson has previously said the man is lying in the hopes of winning money in a civil case against Spacey.

The legal development could have significance for the criminal case against Spacey, legal experts say.

While there are a range of reasons why a civil suit is dropped so quickly after being filed, it could be an indicator a private settlement was reached and that the accuser may ultimately stop cooperating with prosecutors, said William Korman, a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney's office who is now a criminal defense lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases.

"Any settlement could not be conditioned on a refusal to cooperate with the prosecution," said Korman. "Nevertheless, money is a great motivator for an individual not to follow through."

It's also possible prosecutors, upset with the timing of the civil suit, specifically asked the accuser to drop it, said David Yannetti, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense lawyer in Boston. The civil suit was filed months into the ongoing criminal case, but such suits are typically filed after a criminal case is decided, he said.

"Maybe the prosecution said it's either about money or it's about a crime, but it can't be about both and you have to make a decision on where you want to go with this," Yannetti said.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office didn't respond to a call and email seeking comment Friday.

The civil suit was likely filed before completion of the criminal case because the three-year statute of limitations is approaching, added Yannetti.

"We're operating with very little info, but it's clear something unusual is going on here," he said. "Either the prosecution got involved or there was some sort of civil settlement."

Garabedian's client, the son of Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh, alleged Spacey got him drunk and sexually assaulted him at the Club Car restaurant where the then-18-year-old man worked as a busboy.

The criminal case has centered on the cellphone used by the accuser the night of the alleged groping, which the defense says it needs in order to recover text messages it says will support Spacey's innocence.

Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett has ordered the man to hand the phone over to the defense, but his attorney said they cannot find it. The judge has given them until Monday to produce the phone.

  • Friday, Jul. 5, 2019
Report: Univision might be shopping for a buyer
In this June 14, 2006, file photo a journalist holds a microphone bearing the Univision logo in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

A report says Spanish-language television network Univision could be considering a sale from its private equity owners.

Univision confirmed it is "reviewing strategic options" and has hired outside advisers after a report in The Wall Street Journal said it was looking at options, including potentially a sale.

Univision competes with fellow Spanish-language network Telemundo in the U.S.

Private equity firm Saban Capital Group and other firms bought Univision in 2007. In 2016, Univision bought what was then known as Gawker Media, which included news sites Gizmodo and The Onion, for $135 million in an attempt to bring in young readers.

The plan did not pan out, and Univision sold the properties for an undisclosed price earlier this year.

  • Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2019
Halle Bailey tapped to play Ariel in "The Little Mermaid"
In this Dec. 22, 2017 file photo, Halle Bailey poses for a portrait at RMC Studio in Los Angeles. Bailey, half of the sister duo Chloe x Halle, will next be going under the sea, starring as Ariel in the upcoming adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Halle Bailey, half of the sister duo Chloe x Halle, will next be going under the sea, starring as Ariel in the upcoming adaptation of "The Little Mermaid."

The live-action version will include original songs from the 1989 animated hit as well as new tunes from original composer Alan Menken and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some of the tunes include "Under the Sea," ''Part of Your World" and "Kiss the Girl."

Bailey will join Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina in the film, which will be directed by Rob Marshall, who helmed "Mary Poppins Returns."

Marshall says that Bailey "possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role."

  • Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2019
J.A. Bayona to direct first 2 episodes of Amazon Studios’ “Lord of the Rings” series
In this Sept. 9, 2012 file photo, director J.A. Bayona arrives at "The Impossible" premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- 

Filmmaker Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (The Orphanage, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Impossible) will direct the first two episodes of Amazon Studios’ upcoming series based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novels "The Lord of the Rings." Bayona will also serve as an executive producer, alongside his partner Belén Atienza.

“J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team,” said Bayona. “I can’t wait to take audiences around the world back to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story.”

“The scope and breadth of J.A.’s world-building is exactly the right fit for our ambitions for The Lord of the Rings. He’s a passionate and collaborative director who has brought new stories to life with his multitalented producing partner, Belén.” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “We are all excited for them to join our writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and we can’t think of a better way to begin this journey to Middle-earth.”

Bayona’s first feature film, the critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including for best new director. 

Bayona most recently directed the blockbuster feature Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide. He also directed The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.

  • Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2019
Sundance co-founder gets at least 6 years in abuse case
In this April 30, 2019 file photo Sterling Van Wagenen, left, pleads guilty during his initial appearance in American Fork, Utah. Wagenen, who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and produced a movie whose lead actress won an Oscar in the mid-1980s has been sentenced on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, to at least six years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune, via AP, Pool, File)
AMERICAN FORK, Utah (AP) -- 

A filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and produced a movie whose lead actress won an Oscar in the mid-1980s was sentenced Tuesday to at least six years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child.

The judge who delivered the sentence of six years to life said that he hopes the parole board will keep 72-year-old Sterling Van Wagenen in prison longer than the minimum.

Judge Robert Griffin commended the young victim for reporting what happened. Prosecutors say Van Wagenen touched a young girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015.

"You did the right thing and you're not responsible for anything that happened and anything that will happen," said Griffin during the hearing south of Salt Lake City. "You're a brave young lady."

The victim, whose name The Associated Press is withholding because she is a victim of sexual abuse, read a letter blasting Van Wagenen for lying and being a coward.

"I strongly believe the only thing you were actually torn up about is the fact that you got caught," said the girl, now a teen.

Van Wagenen declined to apologize when he spoke to the victim and her family.

"It's clear that any kind of apology I can make is meaningless at this point," Van Wagenen said. "So I am not even going to attempt one. I want you all to know I feel the consequences of what I've done. I feel them deeply."

He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of sexual abuse of a child, both involving the same victim, as part of a plea deal.

Van Wagenen co-founded a Utah film festival that came to be known as Sundance Film Festival with Robert Redford and was the Sundance Institute's founding executive director, but hasn't been with the organization for more than 20 years.

He was a producer on the 1985 film "The Trip to Bountiful," a story of an elderly woman who longs to return to her home that earned the late actress Geraldine Page an Academy Award.

He has worked over the years as a film instructor at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University and as a director and producer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a variety of projects, including temple videos.

Van Wagenen resigned from his part-time instructor position at the University of Utah's Film and Media Arts Department on Feb. 15, university spokesman Chris Nelson said.

Van Wagenen's resignation came after a man accused Van Wagenen of molesting him as a boy in 1993. No charges were filed in that case, which was made public by a website that serves as a watchdog for The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church.

Van Wagenen thanked that man, who was in court Tuesday, saying it was a "blessing" that he brought "this all to light."

  • Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2019
Leonardo DiCaprio helps create new environmental alliance
This June 5, 2019 file photo shows Leonardo DiCaprio at the premiere of "Ice on Fire" in Los Angeles. DiCaprio is joining with billionaire investors and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth to create Earth Alliance, a new nonprofit charged with tackling climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Earth Alliance said Tuesday July 2, it will provide grants, educational opportunities and fund campaigns and films, as well as work with grassroots organizations and individuals in places most affected by biodiversity loss and climate change. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Leonardo DiCaprio is joining with billionaire investors and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth to create a new nonprofit environmental powerhouse charged with tackling climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

The new organization, Earth Alliance, "will work globally to protect ecosystems and wildlife, ensure climate justice, support renewable energy and secure indigenous rights to the benefit of all life on Earth," according to a statement.

Earth Alliance said Tuesday it will provide grants, educational opportunities and fund campaigns and films, as well as work with grassroots organizations and individuals in places most affected by biodiversity loss and climate change.

In the statement, DiCaprio called Earth Alliance a "new larger, nimble platform that shares resources and expertise while identifying the best programs to drive real change around the planet."

DiCaprio has long championed environmentalism, with his eco-focused Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation giving out $100 million in grants for everything from lion recovery and mangrove restoration to the defense of indigenous rights and better access to affordable solar energy. His foundation will be folded into Earth Alliance.

Brian Sheth, the co-founder and president of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, is the board chair of Global Wildlife Conservation and founded The Sheth Sangreal Foundation with his wife to support environmental and educational initiatives. The Sheth Sangreal Foundation will fund operational and administrative costs of Earth Alliance.

Powell Jobs, widow of former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, is a philanthropist and entrepreneur and president of the Emerson Collective, a social impact organization.

  • Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2019
Judge: Andy Warhol didn't violate Prince picture copyright
In this 1976 file photo, pop artist Andy Warhol smiles in New York. Warhol transcended a photographer's copyright by transforming a picture of a vulnerable and uncomfortable Prince into an artwork that made the singer an "iconic, larger-than-life figure," a judge ruled Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Andy Warhol transcended a photographer's copyright by transforming a picture of a vulnerable and uncomfortable Prince into an artwork that made the singer an "iconic, larger-than-life figure," a judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl in Manhattan sided with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts over renowned photographer Lynn Goldsmith.

The case tested whether the legendary artist who died in 1987 made fair use of a 1981 picture of the famed late singer when he created a series of 16 artworks that became known as the "Prince Series." The series contained 12 silkscreen paintings, two screen prints on paper and two drawings.

The judge noted that Goldsmith believed photographs she took of Prince in her New York City studio revealed that he was "not a comfortable person" and was a "vulnerable human being."

In 1984, Vanity Fair licensed one of Goldsmith's black-and-white studio portraits of Prince from her December 1981 shoot for $400 and commissioned Warhol to create an illustration of Prince for an article titled "Purple Fame," Koeltl wrote. He noted that the article said it featured a special portrait for Vanity Fair by Andy Warhol and contained a copyright attribution credit for the portrait that cited a "source photograph" by Goldsmith.

Koeltl said Warhol's artworks were in "stark contrast" to the original black-and-white photograph after the artist applied "loud, unnatural" colors.

"The Prince Series works can reasonably be perceived to have transformed Prince from a vulnerable, uncomfortable person to an iconic, larger-than-life figure," the judge said. "The humanity Prince embodies in Goldsmith's photograph is gone. Moreover, each Prince series work is immediately recognizable as a 'Warhol' rather than as a photograph of Prince — in the same way that Warhol's famous representations of Marilyn Monroe and Mao are recognizable as 'Warhols,' not as realistic photographs of those persons."

Koeltl said Warhol changed the picture so much that his artworks reflect the opposite mood of Goldsmith's photo.

Goldsmith, a pioneering photographer known for unique portraits of famous musicians, claims a 2016 publication of the Warhol artwork destroyed a high-profile licensing opportunity. Her lawyer promises to appeal.

"Obviously we and our client are disappointed with the fair use finding, which continues the gradual erosion of photographers'  rights in favor of famous artists who affix their names to what would otherwise be a derivative work of the photographer and claim fair use by making cosmetic changes," attorney Barry Werbin said in an email.

He said he hoped an appeal "will be successful and pull in the reigns of transformative use where photography is concerned."

  • Monday, Jul. 1, 2019
Kaley Cuoco signs dramatic deal with Warner Bros. TV 
In this Jan. 13, 2019, file photo, Kaley Cuoco poses in the press room at the 24th annual Critics' Choice Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Cuoco is making a big move after wrapping 12 seasons with "The Big Bang Theory." Warner Bros. Television Group said Monday, July 1, 2019, that Cuoco has signed an exclusive, multi-year deal with the company. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Kaley Cuoco is making a big move after wrapping 12 seasons with "The Big Bang Theory," with a new production deal and a pivot from comedy to drama.

Cuoco has signed an exclusive, multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, the company said Monday. The agreement keeps Cuoco in business with the studio that produced "The Big Bang Theory," the CBS comedy in which Cuoco played Penny. It ended its hit run last May.

In a statement, Cuoco said she was excited to continue an "incredibly collaborative and gratifying relationship" with Warner, adding, "They're stuck with me now!"

Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

Her first announced project is the hour-long series "The Flight Attendant," a thriller based on the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian. It will be made for the WarnerMedia streaming service set to launch for consumers in early 2020.

Under the deal, Cuoco and her production company will develop ideas for original TV projects through various Warner TV group divisions. The projects will be aimed at platforms including broadcast, cable and streaming, the company said.

A holding agreement for Cuoco's acting services is part of the overall deal, with Warner developing new series with her in mind. The company and Cuoco, 33, signed a previous deal in 2017.

  • Monday, Jul. 1, 2019
Facebook's David Fischer Named Ad Council's Board Chair
David Fischer
NEW YORK -- 

David Fischer, chief revenue officer of Facebook, has been named chair of the Ad Council’s Board of Directors. He succeeds Linda Boff, chief marketing officer of GE, and will serve in the role for one year. 

The Ad Council Board consists of accomplished senior executives from media and technology companies, advertisers, and agencies (advertising, public relations, digital and social). As chair, Fischer will work in collaboration with the executive committee, the governing body of the Ad Council’s Board, and Ad Council leadership to further the organization’s mission to use the power of communications to address more than 30 critical social issues. He will also manage and advise on business affairs and chair the Ad Council’s 2019 Annual Public Service Award Dinner, the organization’s largest annual fundraising event that will be held on December 5, 2019 at the New York Hilton.

“David’s commitment to purpose driven marketing has been invaluable to the Ad Council and our social good campaigns,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “With David’s leadership, we will continue to use the most innovative tools and technologies to drive measurable impact on the most important issues facing our country.”

Fischer joined the Ad Council Board of Directors in 2011 and became a member of the executive committee in 2012. Prior to his appointment as Board chair, Fischer served as vice chair. Under his leadership, Facebook has become an instrumental force in extending the reach and impact of Ad Council campaigns. In addition to donating significant media to support Ad Council campaigns, Facebook provides creative production through the Facebook Creative Shop and leverages its latest technologies and ad products to drive greater impact on issues including girls’ participation in STEM and diversity and inclusion. 

“I’m deeply committed to the Ad Council’s mission to create ongoing dialogue and action around key issues to drive societal change,” said Fischer. “It’s an honor to lead this incredible organization and have the opportunity to help advance progress on these important topics.” 

During his nearly 10-year tenure at Facebook, Fischer has spearheaded the company’s rapidly growing advertising business while managing its sales and marketing teams worldwide. His many accolades include recognition as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He also serves on the boards of the Alterra Mountain Company and Equal Opportunity Schools.

Prior to his role at Facebook, Fischer was VP of global online sales and operations at Google, where he built and directed Google’s online sales channel and helped turn Google’s online advertising network into the largest in the world. He has also served as deputy chief of staff of the U.S. Treasury Department and contributed to a variety of economic policy issues within the federal government. Previously, he was an associate editor at U.S. News & World Report covering economics and business. 

With the election of Fischer, the Ad Council will continue its ongoing tradition of rotating Board chairs every year between the organizations’ four sectors: media companies, technology platforms, agencies and advertisers.

  • Saturday, Jun. 29, 2019
DirecTV owner backs free streaming service Locast as hedge
In this Jan. 28, 2019, file photo the Locast website is displayed on a computer screen in New York. AT&T, the owner of DirecTV and other television services, is backing Locast, a free streaming service, as a hedge against losing broadcast channels in disputes over fees. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

AT&T, the owner of DirecTV, is backing a free streaming service as a hedge against losing broadcast channels in disputes over fees.

TV subscribers are increasingly finding the channels they pay for blacked out because channel owners and the cable or satellite companies such as DirecTV can't agree on fees. Such fights can drag on for months and block viewers from the Oscars, the Super Bowl and other events.

AT&T said Thursday that it donated $500,000 to Locast, a non-profit organization that streams broadcast channels for free. It's also offering access to Locast through DirecTV and its U-verse cable service.

This option could undercut threats by the station owners to pull channels during disputes. Customers missing channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox could also use a digital antenna. Neither Locast nor an antenna would help if the blacked-out channel is a cable network like Comedy Central or ESPN.

The donation is a pittance for AT&T, with $19.4 billion in profit last year. But it's significant for Locast , which depends on donations and spends about $100,000 to launch each new market. It's now in 13 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Cable companies have pushed back against the rising fees demanded by owners of TV stations and cable channels as viewership shifts online. Those fees get passed down to the customer.

AT&T has found itself on both sides of these fights, as it's both a TV provider and a media company as the owner of networks including HBO, TBS and CNN.

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