Brockovich’s Ex-Husband and Ex-Boyfriend Arrested in Sting
The former husband and ex-boyfriend of Erin Brockovich were arrested in a videotaped law office sting Wednesday morning and charged with attempting to extort about $300,000 from Brockovich and her lawyer-boss, Ed Masry.
Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts in a current hit movie, and Masry were both present when district attorney’s investigators arrested the suspects and their Century City lawyer on charges of conspiring to commit extortion and attempted extortion, officials said.
Authorities say former husband Shawn William Brown, 38, and ex-boyfriend Jorg Lawrence Halaby, 46, demanded the money in exchange for not speaking to tabloid reporters.
Brown of Simi Valley and Halaby of Costa Mesa were arrested along with their lawyer, John Jeffrey Reiner, 52. All three were booked into Ventura County Jail, and bail was set at $50,000 each. County prosecutors had filed two felony extortion charges against each suspect on Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court.
“It is true that there was an extortion attempt of Erin and I,” Masry said from his Westlake Village office Wednesday afternoon. “The threat was that they were going to go to the press and say that Erin and I had a sexual relationship and that Erin was a bad mother.”
He and Brockovich said neither accusation is true.
“They’re bitter, but that doesn’t mean they’re right coming to me and demanding money,” said Brockovich, an investigator in Masry’s office. “I’ve been trying to do the right thing, and it kind of came back and bit me in the butt.”
She said Brown, her first husband, was upset that he did not get a share of the Universal movie deal, and that Halaby was angry at the way their relationship ended.
Halaby’s character as the long-suffering biker-baby sitter was prominent in the movie “Erin Brockovich,” which tells the story of a down-on-her-luck single mother whose work leads to a $333-million settlement by PG&E.;
“I’m sorry Universal didn’t buy Shawn’s rights,” Brockovich said. “And Jorg was paid by Universal and portrayed well. I was thankful for what he did. And I was kind and good to him, but I was simply not in love with him.”
Brown, Halaby and Reiner could not be reached for comment.
The arrests culminated a two-week investigation by the Ventura County district attorney’s office, with assistance from FBI agents in Los Angeles and Ventura, officials said.
The inquiry began after Thousand Oaks attorney Cathleen Drury, who is representing Brockovich in a child custody dispute with Brown, filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors charge that in a series of conversations beginning April 11, Reiner called Masry to say that Brown was ready to give interviews that would cast Masry and Brockovich in an unfavorable light. But Reiner said Brown would hold off for $200,000, the charges say.
That amount escalated to $280,000 as Reiner came to represent both Brown and Halaby, prosecutors maintain in court documents. On April 17, Reiner faxed a proposal to Masry agreeing that both men would never accuse Brockovich of being a bad parent or of having sex with Masry.
Then, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, as a hidden camera rolled, the three men met with Masry, Brockovich and Drury in Drury’s Thousand Oaks office.
They all signed an agreement calling for the men’s silence in exchange for two checks--one of $30,000 to Halaby and another of $280,000 to Brown, Masry said. Both checks were made out to attorney Reiner, as well, Masry said.
Brockovich and Masry left the conference room, and investigators entered almost immediately to make the arrests.
“I was on the verge of crying,” Brockovich said. “I felt like I was going to throw up. The whole thing made me sick.”
Masry said he may have appeared stoic. “But I felt tremendously sad. Families are going to be impacted by this. My wife is sick from this. Erin’s husband is sick over it. It’s not like we won anything. Everybody in this is a loser.”