Facing a federal complaint filed by five male models, photographer Bruce Weber is said to be exploring further legal action of his own.
Seeking a jury trial, the 14-page complaint claimed Weber is “a serial sexual predator who used his power in the male modeling industry to fraudulently and forcefully entice aspiring male models into engaging in abusive commercial acts.” Alleging they were victims of sex trafficking and molestation, the plaintiffs were identified by pseudonyms so as not to subject them to “further embarrassment, shame and emotional harm,” according to the filing in the Southern District of New York’s U.S. District Court on Friday.
Weber did not respond to a request for comment Saturday. A spokesman for his company, Little Bear Productions, declined to comment beyond the statement from Weber’s attorney Jayne Weintraub. “These new allegations against Bruce Weber are outrageous. Bruce Weber has never lured, recruited or forced anyone to do anything and has never inappropriately touched a model. This lawsuit is nothing more than a media-hungry lawyer’s attempt to extort Mr. Weber with false, fictitious and legally frivolous claims. We are confident that Mr. Weber will prevail against these false allegations; not just with words, but with evidence in a court of law,” she said.
Weintraub did not respond to requests for further comment.
While Weber’s team closes ranks in response to these latest allegations, the photographer is said to be looking into legal action of his own, according to sources familiar with the situation. The amount of damages being sought by the plaintiffs was not pinpointed in the federal complaint.
The complaint cites violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, alleging that Weber “recruited and enticed” the plaintiffs by initiating a professional relationship with them and then inviting them to and/or booking them for auditions, test shoots or photo shoots. The complaint alleges Weber’s “modus operandi was to sexually touch and/or fondle male models during one-on-one photo shoots under the guise of directing the photo shoot and/or otherwise offering creative direction.
Two of the alleged “fraudulent breathing exercises” and genital fondling incidents were during photo shoots for Abercrombie & Fitch — one in the fall of 2008 in Florida and another “in or about July 2009” in Boston. Weber shot the brand’s campaigns for years in the Nineties often depicting slightly off–kilter preppy women and sometimes shirtless male models clowning around.
Executives at Abercrombie & Fitch did not respond immediately Sunday to a request asking whether any complaints had been filed against Weber for mistreating models during the brand’s photo shoots.
This is the second legal firestorm that Weber has faced in the past year or so — a point highlighted in the complaint, which referred to him as “an industry pariah” since the filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit and a subsequent New York Times exposé. In December 2017, another complaint was filed in New York State Supreme Court alleging that Weber forced model Jason Boyce to rub his own genitals among other acts. Boyce is seeking up to $2 million in monetary damages. Weber has denied Boyce’s charges.
Bloom also represents Boyce. Boyce claimed that he suffered from being sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of his gender. The complaint also referred to Boyce being the victim of “casting couch” practices by Weber.
Representatives for Boyce at Photogenics Media did not respond to requests for comment Saturday, nor did ones at NTA Talent and DT Model Management, both of which represent Mark Ricketson, another model alleging Weber sexually abused him.
Away for the holidays, the plaintiffs’ attorney Lisa Bloom of The Bloom Firm deferred comment until Wednesday. She declined to respond when asked whether any other models have reached out since Friday or how confident she is that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act will apply to this case.
In an interview with The New York Times Friday Bloom said, “It’s considered a commercial sex act because the person who applied is hoping to get a job.” The Times also reported that lawyers for the plaintiffs describe Weber’s actions as sex trafficking, after a judge in a lawsuit alleging sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein ruled that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act could apply to “casting couch” scenarios.
In an interview earlier this month with WWD, when Weber was asked about his pending case with Boyce, he said they expected to be back in court early next year. He also said, “I hope sometime soon that we have other things to talk about than that. I mean it’s court. It takes a while. There’s a lot of stuff you have to do.”
Declining to address any specifics about that case, Weber said, “You can’t talk about it so much but I still feel the same way about it. I trust myself, I know who I am and I know what the truth is.”
He also declined to comment about how the matter has affected his career. As for whether the fashion system has changed and there is a safer working environment for models, he said, “Oh, yeah, I think so. I want to say something about models. I was probably the first man or woman that really photographed men, and didn’t just give them a supporting role in photographs.”
In response to Weber’s Dec. 10 interview with WWD, Boyce posted on Instagram a photo of Weber and the top of the story with “Court Date.” He also posted, “I’ve stayed pretty quiet about things pertaining to my lawsuit. A lot has gone on that no one knows about that has caused pain, anxiety and bouts of depression. But after this I cannot stay silent any longer. – @wwd interviewed Bruce Weber. When asked about me, he had this to say, ‘I hope sometime soon that we have other things to talk about,’ I feel like this statement represents all of fashion in this #metoo moment. They hope that one day this will all blow over. If they ignore it and treat it as a fly in the ointment, they will come away unscathed. If any model wanted to know what the powers that be thinks about them, look no further than that statement.”
He continued, “I am not a human being. I am a problem, a nuisance, an inconvenience. How dare I stand up for myself and countless other young men that have been sexually abused in the name of ‘artistic expression.’ In another interview done by WWD, Hercules Mag co-owner David Vivirido, when asked about sexual assault accusations said, ‘of course it’s not the same as someone accused of something like rape’….. let that sink in real deep. So as long as you don’t rape anybody, you have a place in fashion. This is precedent being set by people in power in such a close-knit industry. Controlled by a powerful few. “
Boyce added, “So my question is, how many young men and women need to come forward for a change to happen? How many lives that have been broken due to the abuse suffered at the hands of photographers, casting directors, and agents will it take for something to be done?”
As of Sunday afternoon, Boyce’s Weber post had nearly 2,500 likes. He closed with, “I also hope that at some point we will have something else to talk about. Because I’m sick and tired of talking about men with power and influence, preying on the vulnerable. I’m sick and tired of talking about people in a position to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, standing by and doing NOTHING. Truth is inevitable, and change is coming.”
While Weber strives to protect his legacy in and out of court, Bloom is working on her own legacy, albeit a legal one. Known for championing women’s rights, Bloom represented Harvey Weinstein early on when sexual harassment claims against the Hollywood producer first surfaced. Days after The New York Times’ October 2017 bombshell story highlighted numerous allegations against Weinstein, she exited his legal team. Bloom reportedly later described her involvement as “a colossal mistake.” Bloom has reportedly guided numerous high-profile personalities including former model Janice Dickinson who accused Bill Cosby of rape, Mischa Barton in a “revenge porn” lawsuit and Blac Chyna in obtaining a restraining order against Rob Kardahsian. Bloom has also earned her own share of media coverage. Last year, W magazine profiled her and her mother Gloria Allred, a legal trailblazer. When asked about her penchant for press conferences, Allred was quick to reply, “We’re known for precedent-setting cases,” according to W magazine.
Bloom’s daughter Sarah is also in the legal field as an associate attorney who is currently admitted to practice in New York. She is one of The Bloom Firm’s four lawyers who signed off on Friday’s complaint against Weber.
Another internationally established photographer who has faced sexual misconduct allegations, David Bellemere, said the man who “impersonated him” (on Instagram, soliciting models for a fake Victoria’s Secret casting) is expected to go before a judge in France in March. Police officials in Lyon confirmed an investigation was ongoing earlier this year. Bellemere was among five photographers and the stylist Karl Templer who were accused of sexual misconduct in a Boston Globe investigative piece published in February. All of the men denied any wrongdoing, with Bellemere and Templer doing so vehemently.
As reported, the Boston Globe told Templer’s lawyer in a brief letter dated Oct. 2 that the story did not implicate him specifically in instances of sexual coercion.
While the Globe’s lawyer was adamant that the paper “stands behind all of its reporting in that article,” he addressed Templer’s view that the article implicated him in “coercing or trying to coerce models to engage in sex or sexual activities” with him.
“The article did not assert or imply any such thing, nor did it report that Mr. Templer attempted to have or had sex with any models,” the letter reads. “Any claim that the Globe accused Mr. Templer of such conduct is entirely unfounded.”
The letter referred to Templer alone and not to anyone else named in the Globe’s story.