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Brett Ratner accuser, sued for defamation, says director is attempting to silence women

Brett Ratner accuser, sued for defamation, says director is attempting to silence women
Director Brett Ratner in 2011. A woman being sued by Ratner for defamation after accusing him of rape on a Facebook post said in court filings he is attempting to intimidate and silence women. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A woman who was sued by director Brett Ratner for defamation after she publicly accused him of rape alleged in a court filing Monday that the director was attempting to silence and intimidate her and other women from coming forward about his sexual misconduct.

A federal judge in Hawaii is scheduled to hear a motion later this week in the lawsuit filed by Ratner against Melanie Kohler, who posted on Facebook in October that she was raped by the director about 12 years ago.

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Kohler’s attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the case, saying Ratner did not have the factual basis to prove Kohler published the Facebook post with malice. They also contend California’s “Anti-SLAPP” law prohibiting lawsuits aimed at silencing critics should apply, even though the suit was filed in Hawaii, where Kohler now lives.

“If wealthy, powerful plaintiffs like Mr. Ratner can burden victims of sexual assault like Ms. Kohler based on nothing more than their own say-so, then our fundamental First Amendment protections will offer no sanctuary to those who need them most,” attorneys for Kohler wrote in a filing Monday.

Ratner has denied raping Kohler and called her accusations “false, fabricated, and fictional” in his lawsuit. The suit was filed just hours after The Times published a report including the stories of six women, not including Kohler, who accused the director of misconduct.

In their response to the motion for dismissal, Ratner’s attorneys said they would prove Kohler posted the rape claim on Facebook knowing it to be false. As a result, Ratner “suffered injuries to his personal and professional reputations” and “emotional distress, worry, anger, and anxiety,” the attorneys alleged.

“Mr. Ratner could and would submit evidence to show that Defendant has changed her rape story multiple times since she initially published it, and even took down her Facebook post when confronted about her inconsistent statements and implausible story,” they wrote.

Lawyers for the director contended California’s laws against “strategic lawsuits against public participation” did not apply because Kohler, a former marketing executive who now runs a scuba shop, lives in Hawaii and posted her allegations from the state.

Kohler’s attorneys, a team of star litigators including former attorney general of Hawaii David M. Louie and Supreme Court litigator Roberta Kaplan, contended California law should apply because the alleged rape took place in California and the case had significant implications here.

They accused Ratner of trying to “circumvent” California laws by suing in Hawaii.

“He has effectively engaged in ‘defendant-shopping’ by choosing to sue the only woman accusing him of misconduct who does not live in California,” they wrote.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor is scheduled to hear the case on Thursday.

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