One of the most powerful attorneys in the entertainment industry — who has both defended entertainers accused of sexual misconduct as well as represented survivors — was himself accused of sexual assault when he was a college student, according to public court records.
Bryan Freedman has previously represented Diplo and Kevin Spacey in cases alleging sexual misconduct alongside disgraced music executive Charlie Walk, who hired Freedman in a malpractice case arising from the handling of his departure from Universal Music Group following multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him. The lawyer is also currently representing FKA Twigs (real name: Tahliah Barnett) in her ongoing sexual battery and assault lawsuit against Shia LaBeouf.
Freedman is one of the most prolific lawyers in the entertainment business whose past star clients include Quentin Tarantino, Robert Downey, Jr., Megyn Kelly, Mariah Carey, Vin Diesel, Christopher Nolan and Chris Cuomo. But back in the late 1980s, Freedman was one of several defendants sued over allegations of sexual assault of a teenager; Freedman eventually settled the suit for $40,000.
Business Insider first reported on the documents. Former Nickelodeon star and founder of the survivor-led Eat Predators movement Alexa Nikolas led a small protest outside of Freedman’s office in July. Freedman represented her ex-husband Michael Milosh after she sued him alleging abuse and grooming. (The suit was dropped in May, and Milosh denied Nikolas’ allegations, calling them “absurd and [outrageously] false.” Milosh sued Nikolas’s attorneys for malicious prosecution in September, and Nikolas told Rolling Stone she plans on refiling a suit.) Nikolas shared several snippets of the 80s-era suit against Freedman and others on her Instagram account.
As the court records, obtained by Rolling Stone, reveal, the alleged incident occurred in 1985, when Freedman was an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Freedman and two of his fraternity brothers, according to court documents, allegedly took an intoxicated 17-year-old girl back to a frat house before three of them took turns sexually assaulting her. Freedman, along with two other defendants, tried to dismiss the claims and claimed that any sexual relations they had were consensual.
The suit was filed in 1986 and settled in 1991. The plaintiffs – the teenager and her parents – originally demanded millions in damages in their initial complaint. Along with Freedman, the TKE and ZBT fraternities also paid $40,000 each in settlements, and the two other fraternity brothers named as defendants settled as well. (Freedman did not reply to Rolling Stone’s request for comment. He has previously provided legal services to Rolling Stone’s parent company Penske Media Corporation.)
Rolling Stone is withholding the accuser’s name for privacy, as she was a minor at the time of the allegations. As the girl recalled in a deposition in 1986, she was on campus at another party hosted by the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon. While at the party, her boyfriend at the time was studying at the library. According to court documents, the girl got drunk at the party and returned to her car a few blocks away to sleep. Soon after, she returned to the party where she met Freedman and the other defendants on the way.
According to her deposition, she recalled Freedman and his frat brothers asking where she was going. She said she was going to a party where her boyfriend would be, and they asked who he was. They then claimed they knew her boyfriend, and encouraged her to walk with them, she alleged in the deposition. Still intoxicated, the girl claimed the next thing she remembered was waking up in a bed in a room she didn’t recognize.
The suit alleged that Freedman was the first to assault her. Freedman “had already taken off my underwear and was starting to have relations with me,” she alleged. The two others assaulted her after Freedman, she claimed. By the time of the settlement, five years after the original complaint, there was still dispute, according to court records, on whether Freedman had sex with her or if it was “‘merely’ oral copulation.”
The girl told her brother about the incident about a week and a half later, who got her in contact with a rep from the university, according to the deposition. She declined to press charges, she said in the docs, after police told her she’d have to notify her parents of the alleged assault. (She eventually told her parents, who became plaintiffs in the suit.)
Berkeley’s paper the Daily Californian covered the lawsuit and broader controversy at the time, with Freedman resigning from his student government position amidst the suit. The paper reported student government officials pressured Freedman to resign, though at the time Freedman said he was resigning to work for a law firm in San Francisco.
A settlement itself is not any admission of guilt in a suit, but Nikolas says regardless, the claims against him are troubling. “Litigation is already so traumatizing for victims. I am here as a concerned citizen, and as a survivor who wants to support other survivors,” she told Rolling Stone.
Along with Barnett — whose suit against LaBeouf is expected to go to trial next year — Freedman is also representing a woman who has accused MLB pitcher Trevor Bauer of sexual battery. He also previously repped Gabrielle Union, who herself has been open with her story of being raped at gunpoint, in an unrelated dispute with former employer NBC. Reps for Twigs and Union did not reply to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
UPDATE 12/1/222: This story has been updated to better reflect Charlie Walk’s professional relationship with Bryan Freedman.