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Judge refuses to unseal ex-Playboy model’s suit against Trump fundraiser

Judge refuses to unseal ex-Playboy model’s suit against Trump fundraiser
Former Playboy model Shera Bechard, shown in Los Angeles in 2012, sued Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy of Beverly Hills on Friday and convinced a judge to keep the complaint under seal for 20 days. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

A state judge rejected a request Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times and seven other news organizations that he unseal a lawsuit a former Playboy model filed against one of President Trump’s top fundraisers.

Shera Bechard, who was Playmate of the Month in November 2010, sued Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy of Beverly Hills on Friday and convinced a judge to keep the complaint under seal for 20 days.

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On Tuesday, a lawyer for the news organizations urged a second judge to make the suit public. “There is no basis for continuing to keep this sealed,” Kelli Sager told Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige at a morning hearing in state Superior Court in Los Angeles.

But Hiroshige agreed with attorneys for both Bechard and Broidy that Judge Ruth Kwan was correct to block public disclosure of the lawsuit.

“To seal it for 20 days, in my opinion, was a thoughtful and fair assessment of the situation that she was confronted with,” Hiroshige said.

Broidy, 60, who is married, has acknowledged having a consensual sexual relationship with Bechard, saying he agreed to make payments to her after she told him she’d become pregnant and had an abortion.

Broidy hired Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, last year to negotiate a nondisclosure agreement with Bechard.

Elliott Broidy attends a San Marino fundraiser for the American Ballet Theatre on Sept. 13, 2009.
Elliott Broidy attends a San Marino fundraiser for the American Ballet Theatre on Sept. 13, 2009. (Ann Johansson / For the Los Angeles Times)

The deal required Broidy to pay Bechard $1.6 million in eight installments, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But after giving her the first $400,000, Broidy declined to continue making payments because Bechard’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, broke the agreement by discussing it with another attorney, Michael Avenatti, a Broidy lawyer told the Journal.

When the Journal disclosed the pact in April, Broidy stepped down as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Victor O’Connell, a lawyer for Bechard, said Tuesday that her complaint was filed under seal because of concerns that Broidy would argue that disclosure of the confidentiality pact in a public lawsuit would breach the agreement.

Bechard filed the suit against Broidy, Davidson and Avenatti, who is also representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her effort to void a nondisclosure pact that bars her from discussing her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Joining The Times in requesting the unsealing of the complaint were the Washington Post, Dow Jones, the Associated Press, CNN, ABC News, the New York Post and the Daily Beast.

Bechard had also declined to provide a copy of the lawsuit to Avenatti. The concern, O’Connell told the court, was that Avenatti “is notorious for leaking documents and information” to the news media.

Hiroshige ordered O’Connell to provide a copy of the complaint to Avenatti, who called it a frivolous lawsuit.

“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he told reporters outside the downtown courthouse.

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In court papers, Avenatti accused Bechard’s attorneys of leaking the complaint to the Wall Street Journal.

“Putting lies in legal documents doesn’t make them true,” Bechard attorney Peter Stris responded to Avenatti on Twitter. “When YOU inevitably leak our complaint, it will be very clear why Judge Kwan provisionally sealed it for 20 days. Your media sideshow is a disgrace.”

1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Michael Avenatti and Peter Stris.

This article was originally published at 12:35 p.m.

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