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'Piolin' Sotelo to pay $100,000 in legal fees for former staffers

Radio star Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo must pay $100,000 in legal fees of former staff members
An extortion lawsuit brought by radio star Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo is tossed out

Spanish-language radio star Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo's legal and public relations strategy to sue former staff members has backfired.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge earlier this week ordered Sotelo to pay $100,000 in legal fees of six former staff members who worked on Sotelo's canceled Univision Communications' radio show. Sotelo now has a program on SiriusXM satellite radio.

Sotelo filed a lawsuit against the former staff members last summer after they banded together in the wake of allegations that Sotelo had sexually harassed a male producer on his hugely popular "Piolín por la Mañana" program on Univision Radio.

Sotelo has long denied the allegations. He also claimed that he was a victim of an attempted shake-down by his former staff members, who sought as much as $4.9 million from him.

In March, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard A. Stone dismissed Sotelo's extortion lawsuit, saying that Sotelo had failed to prove that he would prevail if the case went to trial. 

Stone also invited the six former co-workers to file a petition demanding that Sotelo pay their legal fees to defend themselves against his lawsuit.

This week, Stone approved the request, saying that Sotelo must pay $100,000 in legal fees and $5,000 in legal costs incurred by the group.

Lawyers for the group, John C. Taylor and Robert Clayton, had argued that Sotelo's extortion lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate the former staff members and prevent them from exercising their free speech rights.

The judge agreed that it was a strategic lawsuit against public participation or "SLAPP."

"We are very pleased," Taylor said. "Mr. Sotelo's lawsuit was a complete sham from the beginning, attempting to use the legal system to divert attention from his perverse actions.  He bullied these people when they were employees, and he bullied them again with his extortion lawsuit."

In their motion last fall, the six former workers alleged that as Sotelo's Univision career began to soar -- around 2006 -- his behavior toward staff members turned increasingly abusive.

The group claimed that Sotelo taunted them by calling them derogatory names, licking and biting them, grabbing his genitals, slapping food out of their hands, and urinating into a bottle during breaks in the broadcast of his Univision radio show when others were present.

Sotelo denied the allegations. On Friday, Sotelo's public relations representative declined to comment on the award of legal fees.

The group of ex-staff members said they came forward last summer after another former staff member, producer Alberto "Beto" Cortez, complained to Univision about Sotelo's alleged treatment. 

Univision canceled Sotelo's radio program in July 2013.

The six former Univision workers are: Tomas Alejandro Fernandez, Samuel Heredia, Gerardo Palencia, Domingo Rodrigo Ochoa, Sergio Vera and Bertha "Betty" Velasco.

Next month, the judge is expected to hear a motion for attorney fees brought by the Taylor & Ring law firm. Sotelo's suit also named Taylor and Clayton as defendants in the alleged extortion plot.

The law firm's motion seeks $100,000 from Sotelo for its legal fees.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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