Court: Flatley can sue sex-charge lawyer for extortion

by Walter Olson on September 14, 2004

A California appeals court has ruled that Michael Flatley, famed for the dance productions “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance”, can sue D. Dean Mauro, “a Waukegan, Ill., attorney who filed a $35 million suit falsely accusing the Irish dancer of raping an ex-stripper in a Las Vegas hotel room.” Twenty-five days after a sexual encounter between Flatley and Tyna Marie Robertson, Robertson called police to claim the encounter had been rape. According to the court ruling, “Mauro spent the next few months calling the dancer’s lawyers … threatening to ‘go public’ with the allegations, to ‘ruin’ Flatley and demanding $1 million for his and Robertson’s silence.” After Flatley sued Mauro for extortion, Mauro unsuccessfully invoked the protection of the state’s “SLAPP” (“Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation”) statute and also unsuccessfully claimed that his communications with Flatley’s lawyers were protected by the litigation privilege for lawyer-to-lawyer communication. “The only thing he did was represent his client,” said James Holmes, a lawyer for Mauro. “It’s all privileged.” The original lawsuit by Robertson was withdrawn after Flatley countersued. (Mike McKee, “Calif. Court Revives Lord of the Dance’s $100M Extortion Suit Against Lawyer”, The Recorder, Sept. 3). Update Jul. 30, 2006: Calif. high court agrees Flatley can sue.