Gun leads to Lake’s walkout in Bush suit

Times Staff Writer

The already-contentious civil lawsuit against Reggie Bush grew even more acrimonious Tuesday when the plaintiff walked out of a pretrial deposition in San Diego, angry that Bush’s attorneys had brought along an armed, plain-clothed security guard.

The midday incident sparked a flurry of accusations between lawyers representing each side.

Bush’s attorney, David Cornwell, said he felt the need for protection because Lloyd Lake, the man suing his client, is a convicted felon and documented gang member.


Lake’s attorney said the “big, heavyset” security guard flashed a holstered handgun and initially refused to identify himself.

“If you’re going to have a security guard there . . . have a licensed security guard with a uniform and a business card,” lawyer Brian Watkins said. “Why bring this secretive guy who won’t tell us who he is? That’s witness intimidation.”

Lake filed suit against Bush in San Diego court in October, claiming that he and a partner tried to start a sports marketing agency with Bush as their primary client.

The suit alleges that the agency gave more than $291,000 in cash and gifts to Bush and his parents while the athlete was still in college, an allegation that has prompted an NCAA investigation.

Bush has repeatedly said that neither he nor his family did anything wrong.

The would-be agency never got off the ground because Bush chose an established marketing agent. He settled with Lake’s partner for a reported $200,000 to $300,000.

On Tuesday, Lake was scheduled to answer questions from Cornwell and another Bush attorney, Kevin Leichter, at a San Diego high-rise. Bush did not attend the proceeding, but the security guard did.

The man sat with “his arms crossed, glaring menacingly,” Watkins said. The two sides argued over his presence and he eventually left the room, Watkins and Lake departing soon after.

Watkins said the incident fit a pattern of intimidation that began two years ago when Cornwell allegedly sent an e-mail threatening to make legal trouble for Lake, who was on probation.

Lake’s criminal history includes convictions for drug distribution and domestic violence.

Cornwell said that Lake used the guard’s presence as an excuse to avoid answering questions under oath. He also alleged a history of physical threats.

On Jan. 22, 2006, he alleged, Watkins warned him that Lake “was a gang member and if we didn’t make the payment he was demanding on behalf of his client, he wasn’t sure that he would be able to control him because, as he said, ‘These people are bad people.’ ”

In December 2007, he further alleged, Lake made two threats against Bush.

Watkins called both allegations “outright lies. Slanderous.”

The dispute is expected to return to court later this week with Cornwell filing a motion to compel Lake to attend a rescheduled deposition.

Lake might also be forced to hand over almost 200 documents ranging from past tax returns to the contract he signed for a book, “Tarnished Heisman,” published late last year.

Lake has refused to produce the documents, saying they are irrelevant to the case and, in some instances, protected by attorney-client privilege.

“He filed this lawsuit,” Cornwell said. “Now he has an obligation to sit down and meet his burden of proof.”

Bush, meanwhile, is scheduled to be deposed Feb. 25, at which time Lake’s attorneys said they will ask him under oath if he received cash gifts while at USC.

Such testimony could be important to the NCAA’s ongoing investigation.

Bush’s lawyers “are using their last bit of scare tactics right now,” Watkins said. “They’re pulling out all the stops because they know February 25 is Reggie Bush’s day of reckoning.”