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Tuesday 18 June 2013

Murdoch Is Served (95)


[Update at end of post]

It’s been a long time coming, but at last the first action against the Murdoch empire for alleged phone hacking on US soil has begun. Lodged by Normal Seigal, the attorney who represented families of the 9/11 victims, a civil complaint has been brought by Eunice Huthart, who alleges messages were intercepted and on occasion deleted. But, you might think, why is she important?
Ah well. Ms Huthart’s action covers the 2004-5 period, at which time she worked as a stunt double for Angelina Jolie, a name and timeframe that should interest Zelo Street regulars. Because this was the time when the now defunct Screws published an exclusive about Ms Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Jennifer Aniston, much of which talked about who was talking with whom ... on the phone.

The Screws piece, revealed by the serially tenacious Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads, talked about the Pitt and Aniston marriage coming apart after Ms Jolie and Pitt had played opposite one another on Mr And Mrs Smith – one of three films on which Ms Huthart played the stunt double role. Ms Jolie was one of those whose messages, it is alleged, were intercepted.

Ms Huthart tells in the court filing that she and Ms Jolie “often travelled and socialised together”. This would have made her an obvious target for anyone wanting to hack into voicemail to get information about the star. Two stories are alleged to have been generated on the back of the hacking, one each in the Screws and Sun. Her mobile PIN had been changed, stopping her access.

So on what basis is Ms Huthart seeking damages? According to The Wrap, “Huthart is seeking unspecified damages for alleged violation of the Stored Communications Act, violation of the Wiretap Act and intrusion into private affairs, among other offenses”. Wiretapping is taken very seriously in California, where the case has been filed, as witness the fate of Anthony Pellicano, now serving time for it.

And this is before considering all the other cases that may follow: names that have previously been pitched include Hollywood music agent Julie Colbert, whose clients at the time included Charlotte Church, and Ms Church’s publicist Kevin Chiaramonte, both of whose names appeared in Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks. On top of those are a number of names hinted at by lawyer Mark Lewis.

Those included Royal confidante and author Paul Burrell, and someone whose description sounds rather like Sven-Goran Eriksson. In addition to these, Mulcaire apparently had other US numbers in his notes, and he worked more or less exclusively for the Murdoch titles. Now that the dam has, apparently, finally been breached, who knows what else may pour out? Stay tuned.

[UPDATE 19 June 1210 hours: Peter Jukes has covered the events in a piece for the Daily Beast, and his article notes that, at the time the Sun made its assertion that Ms Jolie and Brad Pitt were an "item", only a small inner circle knew this. Now consider the assertions made in the Screws exclusive above - three months earlier - and you can see why the suspicion of hacking and wiretapping has been raised.

Yes, the Murdoch press knows about Pitt and Ms Jolie more than three months before the rest of the world. Either they got it from Jennifer Aniston (doubtful), there is a member of that inner circle who is leaking information (equally doubtful), or something less than totally legal has been going on.

I'm sure that Rupe's downmarket troops will have their excuses ready. In the meantime, as Jukes points out, News Corp appears to be putting aside between $1.2 and $1.4 billion against future fines for breaches of the FCPA. Maybe the company is also bracing itself for other fines?]


Darren said...

Eunice Huthart, first seen on Gladiators years ago, from Liverpool, a place with a quite rightly huge amount of distrust in the Digger and his lieutenants.

rob said...

"who alleges messages were intercepted and on occasion deleted."

Shades of the "unproven" Millie Dowler episodes? Even Mulcaire is alleged not to have known he didn't delete her messages (didn't he break down in tears at the thought?)which sort of indicates that he could well have done it.