Michael Egan made headlines last month when he filed a detailed lawsuit in a civil court in Hawaii accusing X-Men director Bryan Singer of childhood sexual abuse. But Egan's credibility has recently come into question.
On Wednesday, Singer filed a motion asking the Hawaii court to dismiss Egan's lawsuit. The motion relies heavily on apparent contradictions between Egan's current testimony and the one he gave for another sexual assault lawsuit, filed in California 14 years ago.
The two lawsuits have different defendants and are technically independent of each other, but they both deal with claims of sexual assault among the same circle of people over roughly the same period of time. Perhaps crucially, the recent lawsuit makes mention of the defendants in the original complaint, but not the other way around. Singer's name does not appear in the 2000 file.
BuzzFeed reviewed the nearly 1,000-page-long file for the 2000 lawsuit and found a series of contradictory claims and competing stories, in which almost every statement seems to have been called into question at least once.
Broadly speaking, the lawsuit alleges that a group of early Internet entrepreneurs repeatedly raped, threatened, and gave drugs to Egan and two co-plaintiffs at their mansion in Encino, Calif. Egan and company won a $4.5 million default judgment after the entrepreneurs fled the country.
The bulk of the litigation — and the source for most of what follows — comes from an attempt by Brock Pierce, one of the original defendants, to challenge the default judgment against him. Two of the three plaintiffs eventually dropped charges against Pierce. Egan apparently wanted to do so as well, according to court documents, but was prevented by his lawyer, who appears to have demanded that Pierce at least pay his fees.
In 2011, Egan filed for a renewal that would allow him to try to collect his award for 10 more years. There is no indication in the court file that any of the $4.5 million awarded to Egan and his co-plaintiffs has ever been paid.
The people involved:
Michael Egan: The plaintiff in the 2014 lawsuit against Singer, Egan came to Los Angeles around 1998, when he was 15 years old, to try to make it in the entertainment industry. Through a high school friend, he met a group of dot-com era executives, who threw lavish parties and allegedly enjoyed the company of young boys. It was at these parties that Egan claims he was drugged and raped by the dot-com executives — and in a more recent lawsuit, several Hollywood figures, including Bryan Singer.
Marc Collins-Rector: One of the defendants in Egan's 2000 lawsuit, Collins-Rector is a registered sex offender who in 2002 was found guilty of transporting minors across state lines in order to have sex with them. He was also the founder of Digital Entertainment Network (DEN), a firm that attracted millions from big-time investors with a plan to broadcast video over the early Internet. After a number of young men filed sexual assaults lawsuits against him, the entrepreneur fled the country and was arrested in Spain in 2002. He was released from prison in 2004, has since renounced his American citizenship, and has vanished from the public eye.
Chad Shackley: Another defendant in Egan's 2000 lawsuit, Shackley was a co-founder of DEN and Collins-Rector's longtime lover. He allegedly participated in the assaults against Egan. He was arrested in Spain with Collins-Rector but was released without charges.
Brock Pierce: The third and last defendant in Egan's 2000 lawsuit, Pierce is a former child actor who worked as a vice president for DEN. He allegedly also participated in the assaults against Egan, who accused him in particular of providing him with drugs. Pierce was arrested in Spain with Collins-Rector, but was also released without charges. He has since reinvented himself as a bitcoin entrepreneur and vigorously denies all wrongdoing.
Alex Burton: Egan's co-plaintiff in the 2000 lawsuit, Burton played Pyro in the first X-Men film, which Singer directed at the same time Egan's recent allegations are said to have taken place. Several documents in the court file describe him as Pierce's "childhood friend." He has since changed his name and left the country.
Mark Ryan: Egan and Burton's co-plaintiff in the 2000 lawsuit, Ryan was not underage when the alleged assaults occurred. Court documents suggest that he returned to his native Ohio, where he works as a firefighter.
Mel Berman: A cook and household staffer at the DEN executives' mansion, where the assaults allegedly took place. He was deposed under oath as a part of Pierce's attempt to reverse the default judgment against him.
Bryan Singer: One of the defendants in Egan's 2014 lawsuits, Singer is a successful Hollywood director. He was an early investor in DEN and allegedly attended parties at the mansion where the abuses are supposed to have taken place. He is openly bisexual and has a history of associating with young-looking men, but denies all allegations that he ever raped anyone or molested underaged boys.
David Neuman: A defendant in a parallel 2014 sexual assault lawsuit filed by Egan, Neuman is a TV executive who had a top role at DEN. He denies all allegations against him and filed a motion to dismiss the suit on May 15.
Garth Ancier: A defendant in another 2014 lawsuit by Egan, Ancier is a media executive who has worked for Fox, NBC, and other networks. He denies all wrongdoing.
Gary Goddard: The fourth and final defendant in Egan's recent lawsuits, Goddard is a producer and theme park executive. He denies all allegations against him and filed a motion to dismiss the suit against him on Thursday, according to a statement from his attorney.
9 highlights from the 2000 lawsuit that seem to affect allegations in the 2014 complaint:
1. Egan allegedly tried to bribe a cook to get him to testify in his favor.
Mel Berman, the weekend chef at the DEN mansion in Encino, swore in a deposition taken in 2003 that Egan and Burton approached him to try to get him to testify against Collins-Rector, Shackley, and Pierce. They allegedly offered him half of the judgment they were expecting to get in exchange for his testimony.
According to the court documents, Egan invited Berman to a Denny's shortly before the filing of the lawsuit. He promised to give him "half of what we are going to get." Burton then spoke with Berman on the phone and tried to get him to join the scheme as well.
Berman refused to take the money and instead testified in favor of Pierce.
Jeff Herman, the attorney representing Egan in the 2014 lawsuits, said that he was aware of Berman but declined to comment further.
"It's someone whose deposition we are certainly going to take," he told BuzzFeed.
2. The cook then swore that he had never seen anything resembling abuse happen to Egan.
In the same deposition, Berman painted a rosy picture of life at the DEN mansion, denying that any abuse took place.
According to Berman, there were never any drugs at the DEN parties. Minors were not allowed to have any alcohol other than "wine with dinner." If there were teenagers around, it was because Scott Schackley, Chad's brother, was a high schooler himself and occasionally invited his friends over.
The cook swore under penalty of perjury that he believed Egan and his co-plaintiffs had made the whole thing up to get money from Collins-Rector and DEN.
Berman's account contrasts with statements by Egan, Burton, and Ryan, all of whom describe the DEN mansion as a place where alcohol flowed freely and where teenagers were routinely invited to wild, drug-fueled parties.
3. Egan swore that he had only been abused by Collins-Rector, Shackley, and Pierce.
In a 2003 deposition, Egan swore under penalty of perjury that nobody other than the three defendants in his 2000 lawsuit had ever abused him, seemingly contradicting the very premise of his 2014 complaint.
Here's the relevant part of the deposition:
Q. Was there anybody other than Marc Collins-Rector, Chad Shackley, and Brock Pierce who you feel was an integral part of this thing that happened to you?
A. Those were the three main the wolf pack.
Q Was there anybody else?
A. There was other people who worked down at the DEN facilities, but partaking in all this stuff I don't think so, no.
Both Singer and Neuman have quoted this part of the deposition as part of their attempts to get the case against them dismissed.
Herman, Egan's lawyer, told BuzzFeed that he has documents from the time period of the first lawsuit in which Egan names the defendants in the current lawsuit. He declined to release those documents, saying that they are not yet a matter of public record and that he intends to use them as evidence in court.
"Mike has always maintained that those three were the three integral players," Herman told BuzzFeed on Thursday. "He has also consistently maintained and named other people going back to that period."
4. Egan said that he had never been to Hawaii with the DEN executives.
As BuzzFeed first reported last week, Egan swore in the same deposition that he had never taken a trip with the DEN executives outside of the continental U.S. In his 2014 complaint, he alleges that at least some of Singer's abuse took place during trips to Hawaii that he took with Collins-Rector and company.
Here is the relevant part of the deposition:
Q. Did you ever take any trips with them [the DEN executives]?
A. Yes, several trips.
Q. Where to?
A. Las Vegas, Lake Havasu.
Q. Anything outside the continental U.S?
A. Never had any trips outside the continental U.S., no.
The allegations that some of the abuse happened in Hawaii are vital to the lawsuit because Egan took advantage of a provision in that state's laws that allows victims of childhood sexual abuse to file complaints after the normal statute of limitations has expired. Egan would not have been able to file his complaint against Singer in California because too much time has passed since the alleged abuse.
"I'm not sure how he interpreted the continental United States," Herman told BuzzFeed last week. "I'm not sure what he's talking about specifically here."
Herman also said that Egan's mother, Bonnie Mound, told him that she had authorized either Collins-Rector or Shackley to take Egan to Hawaii on at least two occasions.
5. One of Egan's co-plaintiffs allegedly tried to get Pierce to join the lawsuit.
In a declaration that he claimed he could uphold as a witness in court, Pierce said that in November or December of 1999, Burton invited him to join what he described as a plot he and Egan were hatching to "extort money from MCR and/or DEN."
Pierce, who was 17 when he met the DEN executives, declined to join the "plot" and was subsequently included as a defendant in the lawsuit.
"In my experience," Herman said of Pierce's allegations, "men accused of wrongdoing rarely admit to the accusations against them."
6. One of Egan's co-plaintiffs allegedly had a consensual romantic relationship with one of the defendants for two years.
In the same declaration, Pierce alleges that Burton and Shackley were in a consensual romantic relationship since he introduced them in 1998 and until 2000.
In Pierce's telling, Burton lived with Collins-Rector, Shackley, and Pierce for several months after the filing of the first complaint against Collins-Rector — the one that eventually became a criminal indictment for transporting minors across state lines.
Pierce said that Burton never expressed any concerns about having been abused, and that he willingly traveled with the DEN executives — who by that point had quit their positions — to Europe and the Caribbean. According to the court document, Burton only left the DEN executives when they discovered that he had been leaking information about DEN to the press and corresponding with Egan about a potential lawsuit against them.
Burton made a similar declaration, in which he describes the months he spent with the DEN crew after the filing of the lawsuit in terms that resemble something akin to sexual slavery.
He said that Collins-Rector, Pierce, and Shackley were making plans to leave the country to avoid paying awards for the sexual assault lawsuits they anticipated were on the way. They were considering Indonesia because the island nation does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Burton said he was only able to "escape" by telling the DEN executives that he wanted to go back to Minnesota to say good-bye to his mother before leaving the country with them.
7. Egan then tried to drop charges against Pierce, but his lawyer wouldn't let him.
After a lengthy and acrimonious legal battle, Ryan and Burton both dismissed their complaints against Pierce without taking money from him.
According to court documents, Egan tried to do so too — but then didn't. The records show that Pierce was required to pay about $20,000 to Daniel Cheren, the lawyer who represented Pierce and the other plaintiffs.
Herman had no comment.
8. Some of Egan's recent allegations seem to have been taken verbatim from declarations by his co-plaintiffs.
Egan's current complaint includes allegations that Collins-Rector once pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him if he ever revealed what was taking place at the DEN mansion. Egan made no such claims in the 2000 lawsuit. Burton, however, did make such allegations.
In a declaration he swore he could uphold in court as a witness, he said that Collins-Rector had once pointed a gun to his head and threatened to kill him if he did not obey his commands. Another time, Burton alleged, Collins-Rector threatened to have his bodyguard strangle Burton.
Herman declined to comment, but told BuzzFeed that his client had passed a polygraph test in which he was asked questions about his claims.
9. But other parts of the lawsuit suggest a dark tale in which powerful Hollywood figures attended parties with drugged-up teenagers.
In a 2003 declaration, Ryan told a bone-chilling story of the night he was allegedly raped by Marc Collins-Rector.
The night began at the DEN mansion in Encino, where Ryan and Egan met Pierce. The three of them then headed to a party that Neuman was hosting in the Hollywood Hills.
"At this party," the declaration reads, "there were lots of drugs available and there were many young boys — ages 14, 15 there. Some of the big studio people were there, including David Geffen, Garth Ancier, and Randal Kleiser. We stayed at this party for a couple of hours."
Geffen and Kleiser are not a defendant in either lawsuit and have not been accused of anything by any of the plaintiffs involved.
Ryan goes on to say that he felt uncomfortable at the party, so Egan, Pierce, and he only stayed for a couple of hours. Afterward they went back to the DEN mansion, where Collins-Rector allegedly fed Ryan a cocktail laced with Rohypnol and ecstasy and told him that he had to sleep with him if he ever wanted to have a career in Hollywood.
Ryan said that he refused, but that the drugs overpowered him. He woke up the next morning naked in Collins-Rector's bed.
A few weeks later, Egan invited him to another similar party. Ryan then told him what had happened. According to the court document, Egan seemed shocked.
"Ok," Egan allegedly said. "Then we don't go."
Additional reporting by Hunter Schwarz.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.