A year after model Jason Boyce filed a lawsuit and more recently an attempted amendment against photographer Bruce Weber for alleged sexual harassment and mistreatment, the lensman has struck back.
Initially claiming sexual harassment and discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law, Boyce’s legal team filed an amendment two weeks ago alleging violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection.
In a filing Wednesday morning in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Weber’s legal team opposes Boyce’s amendment to his complaint. Weber’s attorneys allege that the 32-year-old model’s claim of inappropriate touching during a 15-minutes go-see with Weber are “false and salacious” and that his legal team is now “doubling-down on his false claims charade, by seeking leave to amend and assert a claim against Mr. Weber under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.”
After shooting for more than 40 years in the fashion industry for such clients as Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, Versace and Louis Vuitton, Weber is said to be committed to fighting for his professional legacy.
Weber’s filing describes Boyce as “a failed model who (falsely) claims to have been inappropriately touched during a brief photo shoot, is seeking to now add a claim, based on these same allegations, that he is somehow a victim of sex trafficking. There are no legitimate reasons for this. However, there are plenty of improper ones, including; 1) increasing the public pressure on Mr. Weber that arises from false allegations in the #MeToo era to extort a hefty settlement, and 2) deflecting attention from the patent deficiencies in his case.”
Weber’s lead attorney Jayne Weintraub said Wednesday, “The proposed amendment isn’t based on anything new at all. The plaintiff is attempting to publicly accuse and shame Mr. Weber in the press and on social media. And the point of that was to force a quick settlement and that failed. So this amendment or trying to move to amend is plaintiff’s Plan B, radically mounting pressure through scandalous contrived allegations. But what we will do is to continue to make filings with evidence, not talk.”
Boyce’s attorney Lisa Bloom of The Bloom Firm said Wednesday, “Mr. Weber has hired a team of high priced attorneys who will make every possible argument on his behalf, as we would expect them to do. Nevertheless, we are confident that justice will prevail.”
Modeling representatives for Boyce did not respond to media requests.
A spokesman for Weber deferred comment to Weintraub, who said via e-mail, “We will continue to respond to the allegations in court with evidence, based on facts, not fictitious, false claims without any support. The motion speaks volumes about this frivolous lawsuit. Bruce Weber is innocent of these claims.”
In addition to this ongoing legal battle with Boyce, five unnamed models filed a federal complaint against Weber last month alleging that the photographer 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.” Bloom also represents those five men, who have requested anonymity for privacy reasons.
In December 2017, Boyce filed his complaint against his then-modeling agency Soul Artist Management; his agent Jason Kanner; Weber, and Little Bear Inc., a company that produces some of Weber’s works. “Essentially, plaintiff alleges that, during a 15-minute ‘go-see’ photo shoot, Mr. Weber touched plaintiff’s genitals and kissed him on the mouth as he was leaving.”
Contending “the original complaint is based on false allegations,” Weber’s team wrote in Wednesday’s filing that “considering whether or not to permit plaintiff’s proposed amendment it is important to note what plaintiff could not and does not allege in the complaint.” The memo filed on behalf of Weber’s team claims Boyce does not allege that Weber “lured or enticed him to the go-see, nor does Boyce allege Weber forced himself on him.”
The complaint alleges Boyce and the modeling agency that represented him personally texted nude photos to Weber himself. The filing alleges that Boyce’s legal team has “stonewalled on discovery and is engaging in a full-court press in the media to attempt to exhort a hefty settlement.” Claiming “a good faith effort to resolve the discovery disputes” with Boyce’s team, the complaint says the parties had “several ‘meet and confers,’ both written and telephonic,” from April through June 2018. The complaint also alleges that the plaintiff agreed to produce additional documents on June 1, 2018, that did not happen by the summer of 2018 [declining to put a specific date], “despite the exchange of additional correspondence on the discovery issues, to date.”
Weber’s team claims that Boyce “has not made any further production of documents or provided amended answers to interrogatories. At the same time, Mr. Weber — a man who has worked for decades to achieve his well-deserved reputation — has been forced to sit idly by for almost a year, unable to defend himself against the vile allegations against him.”
Among the exhibits to the brief opposing the amendment are screen shots of Bloom’s Dec. 26 tweet, “We just filed a new federal sexual misconduct lawsuit on behalf of 5 male models against photographer Bruce Weber, for a total of 6 plaintiffs now. Weber denies sexually assaulting anyone. If you have information for us, please contact me. Truth matters.”
Images of other tweets, including a Dec. 14, 2017 one announcing the details of a press conference with Boyce and a Dec. 21, 2018 press release regarding the second sexual misconduct lawsuit against Weber, were also submitted. Weber’s team also submitted a few text exchanges between Weber and Boyce, and between Weber and Boyce’s modeling agent. Five bare-chested images of Boyce, including two naked images redacted with black boxes strategically placed, were also submitted.
Weber’s legal team writes in the filing, “As plaintiff’s media-savvy counsel is well aware, the very sad reality in this country is that plaintiff can and has caused significant delay in this lawsuit, while at the same time, plaintiff and his counsel are trying this case in the press, on social media, or frankly, anywhere but the four walls of a courtroom.”
But Bloom provided a different view in a phone interview Dec. 26 prior to Weber’s filing. She said, “We filed a lawsuit a year ago on behalf of Jason Boyce against Bruce Weber alleging sexual misconduct and since that time a lot of other male models have reached out to us to show support, to tell us very similar disturbing stories. Most of their claims were time-barred by the statutes of limitations, the legal filing deadline that applies to almost all cases. In this case, it would have been three years in New York.”
She continued in last week’s interview, “There was a recent court ruling in New York under the federal sex-trafficking law which said that when someone is sexually exploited in a casting-couch situation, the federal sex-trafficking law applies with a 10-year statute of limitations. We read that case very, very carefully. We read the federal sex-trafficking law very carefully. We realized that this might open the courthouse door for many accusers whose claims were more than three years old and less than 10 years old. The new case that we filed on behalf of five additional models falls into that category.”
Actress Kadian Noble accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct under the federal sex-trafficking law as a casting-couch situation, Bloom said in the prior interview. “I think most people know what that is — but it’s when the accusation is you’re lured in for the promise of a job, in this case the promise of modeling jobs, and sexual activity takes place. That’s considered a commercial sex act, which violates the federal sex-trafficking law.”
Bloom added at that time, “If there is one thing that I want people to know, it’s that this law does exist. It’s a federal law that applies all over the U.S. If you were sexually exploited in a casting-couch situation, you may have a viable civil as well as criminal claim under the federal sex-trafficking laws. I personally think there should be no statute of limitations on these cases. But I have to deal with the laws as they are.”
During last week’s interview, Bloom had said the Boyce case was still being processed. “We’re trying to get depositions scheduled. We would like to take Mr. Weber’s deposition and the depositions of other relevant witnesses. We’re asking for documents. Unfortunately, the court system moves very slowly so we’re very aggressive attorneys for victims. We always have to push and push and push. And the other side tends to stall and delay. So that happens in every case. We’re used to it. We have to keep pushing forward and taking depositions. This is the discovery phase so we’re asking for all relevant evidence.”
Asked if she had heard from other models beyond those who have accused Weber, Bloom said of the industry-wide problem, “Yes, dozens and dozens of models. I think models probably, I hesitate to say, but I’m going to say, probably face the worst sexual harassment and sexual assault of any industry. Models, I don’t know how they do it, actually. Many of them leave the profession as a result. You talk to any model who has worked for any period of time, they’re going to tell you a terrible story about something that happened to them — sexual harassment or sexual assault. I think they’re treated like objects. They’re treated like sexual playthings by powerful people in the industry, and I think it’s appalling. It’s disgusting.”
As for correcting the problem of mistreated models, in last month’s interview Bloom praised the Model Alliance in pushing for reforms. “For example, nobody should be asked to do nudity unless that’s disclosed in advance before they show up. It should never be on the spot that they’re asked to take off all their clothes. Some people choose to do nudity and that’s fine. And some people choose not to and that’s fine, too. It should be their choice, which they [should] have time to think about in advance. If there is going to be nudity, there should be another person present. The models never need to be touched by the photographer or anyone else. They are perfectly capable of taking their own clothes on and off, or positioning themselves however is needed. No one needs to be touching them. I think it’s probably a good idea to have a third person in the room all the time even if there isn’t nudity because sometimes even if there’s not nudity, it’s almost nudity. There is a lot of explicit modeling where people are just barely covered so it’s not really much different.”
Bloom added at that time, “I think there should be a better complaint system. They should be believed when they do complain. There should be faster consequences. For Bruce Weber, I see a lot, I should say some hemming and hawing by people in the industry about what they should do with him. He’s still going to events as far as I know. He still has a career. I don’t know what the total number of Bruce Weber accusers is right now given The New York Times investigation and our six, but it’s a big number. And yet he’s still working as far as I know.”
In Wednesday’s filing, Weber’s legal team claimed they continue “to press for discovery while plaintiff continues stonewalling and defaming Weber in the media,” adding that Weber planned to attend the plaintiff’s proposed mediation in September 2018 “to dissuade a fame-hungry plaintiff from reaching any further for the brass ring on a fictitious carousel.”
It continues, “Plaintiff does not allege that Mr. Weber lured or enticed plaintiff to the ‘go see.’ In fact, the opposite is true. As demonstrated below, both prior to and after the brief photo shoot, plaintiff relentlessly pursued Mr. Weber who agreed to the ‘go-see’ photo shoot only after being badgered by plaintiff and his agent — plainly not the modus operandi of someone who engages in sex trafficking. Plaintiff does not allege that Mr. Weber forced himself in any way on plaintiff, because he didn’t.”
Asked if her hope for the five unnamed models was to settle out of court to respect their privacy, Bloom said, “I would not say that is my hope. No, we want to get justice for them. Ninety-eight percent of civil cases do end in settlements because there comes a point where the evidence is clear one way or the other, both sides realize the value of the case if the case settles. That’s true for my cases. That’s true for everybody’s cases. But any case hat we file we are prepared to litigate all the way through trial and beyond if necessary.”
Regarding the more recent complaint by the unnamed models — one of whom is still working — Bloom said in the Dec. 26 interview a trial is probably a year or two away. “In a trial if their names become public, that’s a decision we’ll make at that point.”
In an interview last week, Weintraub noted that Weber has shot “thousands of models” in his 40-plus-year career. At that time, Weintraub said, “The impact of the accusations has been devastating financially and emotionally. And [for] anyone else that would be falsely accused of such a horrible accusation. The accusation itself is impactful and devastating.”
A spokeswoman for Ralph Lauren said the company has never received any complaints by models against Weber for mistreatment, according to its records. Abercrombie & Fitch executives did not respond to repeated requests asking if any complaints had been filed against Weber by models.