*Shaquille O’Neal will not have to face a jury over allegations that he hired a gang to kidnap his former record label partner in order to recover a sex tape, and the former athlete has the U.S. Constitution to thank for avoiding what was sure to be a drama-filled trial.
Robert Ross filed a lawsuit against the former NBA superstar in July and detailed what might be the most bizarre alleged effort ever to stop a celebrity sex tape from seeing the light of day, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s legal blogger Eriq Gardner:
First some background:
According to Ross’ claims, he and Shaq struck an oral agreement in 2007 whereby Ross would bring singers and other musical artists to Shaq’s label in return for 50% of the subsequent profits. One of the singers, Ray J, then hit it big, and Ross demanded compensation. Allegedly, Shaq refused to pay up, ending their friendship.
Then, Ross told Shaq he possessed a sex tape showing the basketball pro involved with a mistress. The video was supposedly taken when Shaq used Ross’ home for a romp without knowing the residence was bugged with hidden security cameras. Ross would only turn over the sex tape to Shaq in return for the money that Ross felt was due.
So, according to Ross’ lawsuit, Shaq directed members of the Main Street Mafia Crips to kidnap Ross in order to obtain the sex tape. The kidnappers were later arrested, and Shaq was reportedly interviewed by police, but he was never publicly listed as a suspect.
Many sordid allegations, and yet the lawsuit to emerge from this affair turned on a question that had been the subject of a Supreme Court decision in 1988.
In Shaq’s motion to dismiss Ross’ claims of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, and breach of contract, he called Ross “an admitted felon and perjurer” and emphatically denied the allegations as “ludicrous.”
But regardless of the merits of the facts alleged, Shaq’s lawyers demanded that the lawsuit be dismissed by a judge because the events in question happened between August 2007 and February 2008 — more than three years before Ross filed his claim in LA Superior Court. As such, Shaq believed the statute of limitations had run its course.
In response, Ross’ attorneys pointed out that Shaq wasn’t a California resident during this time, and relying upon Section 351 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, it meant that the statute of limitations had been tolled.
In papers to the court, Shaq’s lawyers disputed the constitutionality of section 351. In Bendix Autolite Corp v. Midwesco Enterprises (1988), the Supreme Court struck down a similar Ohio rule and later the Ninth Circuit affirmed in subsequent cases that section 351 couldn’t be justified.
On Monday, Judge Jacqueline Nguyen accepted this interpretation and granted Shaq’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice.
Shaq was represented by Michael Kump and Jonathan Steinsapir at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert in Santa Monica.