Clintons with Peter Paul and his wife Andrea (Courtesy Hillcap.org)
A California appeals court yesterday upheld a lower court decision to dismiss Sen. Hillary Clinton as a defendant in a $17 million fraud suit involving her husband, former President Clinton, and refused to accept as evidence a videotape that allegedly shows her committing felonies.
The three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal for the 2nd District in Los Angeles made the ruling in business mogul Peter Franklin Paul’s civil fraud suit, which claims the former president destroyed Paul’s entertainment company – Stan Lee Media – to get out of a $17 million deal in which Clinton promised to promote the firm in exchange for stock, cash options and massive contributions to his wife’s 2000 campaign. Paul contends he was directed by the Clintons and Democratic Party leaders to foot the bill for a lavish Hollywood gala and fundraiser prior to the 2000 election that eventually cost him nearly $2 million.
Sen. Clinton, nevertheless, will be deposed in the case, along with her husband and a host of Hollywood luminaries Paul says were witnesses to a broken deal with the former president. A trial originally was scheduled for March this year but was delayed due to the appeal of Sen. Clinton’s dismissal.
Yesterday’s ruling upheld an April 7, 2006, decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz to dismiss Sen. Clinton from the case on the basis of the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which, under the First Amendment, protects politicians from frivolous lawsuits during their election campaigns. Paul’s attorney, Colette Wilson, has argued Sen. Clinton violated the federal code and, therefore, would not be covered by the anti-SLAPP statute.
Paul told WND he will consider whether or not to appeal yesterday’s ruling to the California Supreme Court.
The appeals court decision, he said, “stands for the premise that politicians can defraud donors in order to fund their campaigns, and then they’re immune from civil liability.”
Wilson explained, “If we don’t appeal, we will move forward without Hillary.”
Paul asked the appeals court to accept as evidence a videotape of a July 2000 phone call he claims shows Sen. Clinton – despite denials throughout six years of investigation – taking an active role in the production of the fundraiser. Paul contends Sen. Clinton’s participation in soliciting performers and planning the event would make his more than $1.2 million in contributions a direct donation to her Senate campaign rather than to a joint fundraising committee, violating federal statutes that limit “hard money” contributions to a candidate to $2,000 per person. Knowingly accepting or soliciting $25,000 or more in a calendar year is a felony carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.
The tape was one of 90 Paul was ordered to turn over to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York in 2001 as part of the investigation in a related securities case against him. But it has never been used as evidence, despite its relevance to the key question of Sen. Clinton’s involvement in the Hollywood fundraiser, and Paul finally was able to retrieve it this year.
Watch video of July 17, 2000, phone call
Along with submitting the tape to the appeals court, Paul made a request for judicial notice, asking that testimony from the 2005 trial of Sen. Clinton’s campaign finance director, David Rosen, be admitted as evidence to support evidence in the video. Rosen was acquitted of filing false reports of the Hollywood fundraiser. But in his trial, an aide to President Clinton, Jim Levin, admitted he conceived the 2000 Hollywood gala along with Sen. Clinton’s aide, Kelly Craighead, then contacted Paul the next day, asking him to underwrite the costs.
That fact, Paul contends, lays the groundwork for evidence in the tape showing Craighead and Sen. Clinton were directly involved in planning the fundraiser and soliciting contributions.
But the opinion by Presiding Justice Dennis M. Perluss, writing for concurring associate justices Fred Woods and Laurie D. Zelon, said “whether Senator Clinton or Clinton for Senate improperly solicited campaign contributions is not a purely legal question that can be determined based on the uncontroverted evidence already in the record and, therefore, is not an issue we should (or can) decide for the first time on appeal.”
Perluss asserted, essentially, that even if Sen. Clinton committed an illegal act, it was not at the heart of Paul’s case.
Wilson argued the videotape evidence that was withheld from Paul until this year, along with Levin’s testimony, documents the commission of illegal acts that would have prevented Sen. Clinton from claiming protection under the First Amendment.