On August 1, 2013, I received the following email in response to my post titled, MTV and Rape Culture:
Dear Ms. Garner:
I represent Kenneth Santucci and Evan Starkman. It has been brought to my attention that an article on your website dated October 26, 2012 contains inaccurate and/or incomplete information relating to my clients in connection with the lawsuit Tonya Cooley v. Bunim/Murray Productions, et al., County of Los Angeles, Superior Court, Central District, Case No. BC473260. The purpose of this letter is to clarify the facts relating to this matter and ask you to remove my clients’ names from the aforementioned article.
In the action, Ms. Cooley essentially alleged that Mr. Santucci and Mr. Starkman were two of several participants on a reality television show that sexually harassed her, and that MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions failed to properly investigate her complaint of such behavior. Ultimately, the facts revealed that her claims were without merit as to Mr. Santucci and Mr. Starkman. The court ordered Ms. Cooley to dismiss Mr. Santucci and Mr. Starkman from her lawsuit on April 18, 2012. Accordingly, Mr. Santucci and Mr. Starkman were dismissed as parties to the lawsuit without any liability or wrongdoing having been established and without having to pay a dime to Ms. Cooley.
The media reports at the time, including your articles, focused only on the claims made in Ms. Cooley’s complaint. Because Mr. Santucci and Mr. Starkman were never served with the complaint and never appeared in the action, their strong denial of the allegations were never reported. As a result, they are left without a remedy to cure the stigma that the initial reported created.
I hope this letter clarifies the facts as they relate to my clients. Due to the irreparable harm that the article on your website is causing to my clients, I respectfully ask that you remove their names from the article. If this request is not met within a reasonable time frame, I will be forced to take appropriate legal action to vigorously defend my clients’ rights.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of any further assistance regarding this issue.
Attorney at Law
427 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
I admit, upon first read I got both a little scared and a little thrilled. Scared that I could face repercussions for free speech, and thrilled that my blog was deemed worthy of such a warning. I decided to do a little investigating before I decided what to do, and that’s when things got interesting.
First, I visited the website Mr. Shaikh listed: uslawgroupinc.com. Go ahead, click there now. Anything seem strange to you? Like that fact that the website barely exists? (Note: at the time of this writing, the page was a blank template that simply said “My Site.” It seems Mr. Shaikh has updated it to say “Coming Soon.”)
Undeterred–I mean, Mr. Shaikh could be having server trouble, right?–I googled his name. Imagine my surprise that the lawyer representing two reality personalities, is himself, a reality personality, having been a part of One Ocean View, a failed series that was cancelled after the second episode.
Gawker had this to add, in response to an email from Mr. Shaikh that announced:
“I’m heading West to find fame and fortune in ‘the movie business’. Specifically, I’ve been accepted into the Agent Trainee Program at International Creative Management, Inc. (ICM) in Beverly Hills.”
Within the Gawker article, there is a link to a Page Six column that refers to him as a “party promoter.”
OK, before I succumbed completely to the notion that I was in bizarro world, or at best being Punk’d, I dug further to get absolute confirmation that this party-promoting, reality wannabe, agent-in-training Usman Shaikh, was the same attorney Usman Shaikh that said if I don’t do what he wants, he “…will be forced to take appropriate legal action to vigorously defend my clients’ rights. ”
I found this confirmation in of all places, Twitter, where Mr. Shaikh spends his time “@-ing” celebrities, making fun of a domestic violence victim, and whining when his emails aren’t returned.
— Usman Shaikh (@UsmanShaikhEsq) September 6, 2012
@georgiasalpa one of my clients wants to book you, I get no response from Dave via email. How can we get this deal done??
— Usman Shaikh (@UsmanShaikhEsq) June 3, 2013
— Usman Shaikh (@UsmanShaikhEsq) October 9, 2011
And there you have it. Confirmation that both men are one and the same. By the way, is anyone surprised he represents someone who calls himself, “The Unit?”
I have decided not to comply with Mr. Shaikh’s request, not because he *might be* a famewhoring bottom-feeder, but because I see nothing libelous in what I’ve written, nor do I appreciate being threatened.
Rape culture exists, and Viacom/MTV did say, “[Cooley] failed to avoid the injuries of which she complains.” This is a matter of public record, as is the fact that Kenny Santucci and Evan Starkmann are the men Tonya Cooley accuses of sexually assaulting her. That their names were ultimately dropped from a civil suit doesn’t determine their guilt or innocence any more than my blog post does.
The point of my post was to bring to light MTV’s abhorrent response to the allegations, as well as the media’s penchant to post only the photo of the accuser, not the accused. Whether they are guilty or not is not for me to decide, however as a former viewer of “The Challenges,” I can tell you unequivocably that I found them to both make extremely cruel and misogynistic remarks, and have found their behavior to be abusive to female cast members, including Tonya Cooley. Than MTV doesn’t find this enough reason to keep them off of their network is shameful.
That’s what my original post was about, and that’s why I’m leaving it up. Should Evan and Kenny decide they want their attorney to go after my vast fortune (which consists of a paid-for Toyota Camry) then so be it.
Let the toothbrushes fall where they may–as long as it isn’t in my vagina.
For an update, please see: Open Letter to Kenny Santucci and Evan Starkman