After more than a year of delay, a team of attorneys will finally travel to Los Angeles next month to examine Celebrity Apprentice’s highly watched and unseen footage for evidence the Trump family knew she was instigating. people to invest in a scam.
A New York City federal judge on Tuesday ordered Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio to make the footage available in a safe location, potentially ending a long-standing battle that is still hidden in secrecy.
MGM will not say what is in the tapes or why it might be so damaging to make them public. It’s not even clear why the movie studio is fighting so hard to keep the unreleased footage from Trump’s old show a secret. And in court records filed last week, the Beverly Hills studio reportedly only described what was in the tapes in a document that remains sealed in public view.
But lawyers for four despised entrepreneurs know what they’re looking for: anything that shows Donald Trump and his kids knew they were cheating potential investors into leading them to ACN, a North Carolina-based multi-level marketing firm. .
Trump and his children Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric were the main recurring characters of The Apprentice, playing the role of business judges. During the show, the family touted ACN as a promising investment, with even celebrities competing to produce an advertisement for the company’s new supposedly high-tech video chat phone, the Iris 5000. In reality, the technology was a dud and the company was facing financial turmoil, but viewers were not made aware of this.
The lawsuit was filed in 2018 by four entrepreneurs who say they were pressured into joining ACN’s tiered marketing program and wasted time and money doing so because of the Trump endorsements. Lynn Chadwick from Pennsylvania says she was duped into the program in 2013, while Catherine McKoy and Millard Williams from California started in 2014. Markus Frazier from Maryland says he signed up in 2016. None of them them only stayed the second year.
Reviewing the footage could take weeks, even though these are just two episodes of Celebrity Apprentice that aired in the spring of 2011. In these episodes, opposing teams led by rapper Lil John and TV personality NeNe Leakes clashed to produce ridiculous commercials for the new ACN. videophone.
In her order on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield wrote that attorneys representing these contractors must review the requested footage on site and be able to copy the relevant clips.
The case is ready for a jury trial, so if the legal fight goes that far, the public could see the video as well.
Roberta A. Kaplan, whose firm represents entrepreneurs, declined to discuss the matter. Lawyers for MGM, ACN and the Trump family did not respond to requests for comment.
The entrepreneurs sued the Trump Corporation and family members who starred on the NBC show, Donald, Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric, claiming they were portraying ACN as a decent investment without revealing that they were secretly receiving money. million dollars to do it. The New York Times, citing Trump’s tax returns that reporters had managed to obtain, would later reveal that the multi-level marketing firm paid him $ 8.8 million over 10 years.
Trump has repeatedly distorted ACN’s risk profile with consumers, incorrectly claiming that investing in ACN is a low-risk entrepreneurial endeavor, the lawsuit says. Trump repeatedly told his audience that he supported ACN because he believed it offered a reasonable likelihood of commercial success. He praised ACN’s business prospects and his esteem for its founders. And he failed to reveal that he was, in fact, paid millions of dollars for his ACN endorsement.
But the legal fight inevitably involved the entities with the actual evidence: MGM and JMBP, which stands for J. Mark Burnett Productions. Burnett, the British producer behind The Apprentice and a longtime Trump ally, is now the chairman of MGMs Worldwide Television Group.
The lawsuit, originally filed in October 2018, dragged on for years as it encountered strong resistance every step of the way. At first, the family attempted to withdraw the case from federal court and enter a closed-door arbitration process. This failed when Justice Schofield and an appeals court ruled against it.
Then, in April 2020, when the judge asked MGM to put the tapes back on, any effort to review the taps was skewed by lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic. MGM refused to let the contractors’ lawyers view the footage from a distance, and the lawyers would not risk getting sick by taking the six-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles and being crammed into video screening rooms. This disagreement was ultimately resolved by a court order on Tuesday.
The lawsuit was also initially filed by contractors using pseudonyms, but in August the judge ordered them to retake their lawsuit using their real names.
The edited version of the lawsuit describes how McKoy, for example, didn’t realize ACN was a scam until his second year at the company. She remembers taking recruits to company meetings for over a year and only earned $ 38, she says.
She realized she had been scammed. Trump was selling a dream to people like her, people who were in financial trouble, were genuinely desperate and would jump on the promise of the kind of success Trump embodied, according to the lawsuit.
Expect a slow burn. The judge has scheduled a trial after March 2023.
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