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TV Actor Wins Defamation Suit

Times Staff Writer

Actor David Schwimmer has won a $400,000 judgment against convicted felon and onetime celebrity fundraiser Aaron Tonken, who admitted Friday that he falsely accused the former “Friends” star of demanding Rolex watches to appear at a 1997 charity fundraiser.

Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller on the hit NBC show, filed a defamation lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court in 2004 after public allegations by Tonken that Schwimmer had demanded two watches, worth $26,000, for himself and his father in exchange for attending a “Friends Helping Friends” event.

In a statement Friday, Tonken apologized to Schwimmer, admitting that he falsely told reporters from The Times and the National Enquirer that he had an invoice to prove that Schwimmer received the watches.

“These statements were made at a time in my life that was unbearable,” Tonken said. “Though this statement was an isolated incident and I said it to retaliate against David Schwimmer, I still acknowledge I have no excuse and deeply regret making this untrue statement.”

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In a statement, Schwimmer said, “I feel vindicated by the judgment.”

Tonken was sentenced to five years in federal prison in 2004 after pleading guilty to defrauding contributors and underwriters of charity events he promoted.


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