[UPDATE] Document Shows John Travolta's Insurer Paid at Least $84,000 Last Year Over Sexual Assault Claims
Butt-chinned actor John Travolta faced a messy litany of sexual charges last year, accusations that varied in size, shape, and credibility. Most famously, there were the two John Doe masseurs, a pair of anonymous muscle-rubbers whose tag-teamed lawsuit claimed the celebrity Scientologist separately turned their private massage sessions into predatory gay assaults. There was also Fabian Zanzi, a former cruise-ship employee who claimed the VIP guest rubbed his "erect penis" against him. (Both suits were ultimately dropped, both followed by an abrupt silence.)
But those weren't the only serious accusations leveled against the actor: Gawker has obtained an internal report of insurance claims made against Travolta's production company, Constellation Productions Inc., showing four other parties privately issued attorney demand letters "alleging sexual assault" within the last year, including the actor's longtime stunt double, his former driver, and a physical therapist. What's more is that Travolta's insurer paid out $84,500 against two of these six claims.
According to the document, a "loss-run" report from Chartis Insurance (a name briefly used by an AIG subsidiary in an abandoned rebranding attempt), one small payment
went to was made over a claim from a previously unreported accuser, a Chicago-area sports therapist who worked with the US women's soccer team in 2008. The other line-item payout, $80,750, was allotted to the John Doe masseur case.
A quick refresher on the John Doe #1 and #2 timeline:
- On Friday, May 4, 2012, an anonymous Beverly Hills masseur filed an uncomfortably graphic federal complaint against Travolta, recounting a private session during which the actor became verbally nasty, grabbed the masseur's scrotum, jerked off, and, at one point, offered to broker a three-way with an unnamed actress—but only if the two men had sex first.
- The following Tuesday, May 8, a second plaintiff was added to the original suit by lawyer Okorie Okorocha. John Doe #2, a Georgia-based masseur who would later be outed as John "Casey" Truesdale, accused Travolta of similarly inappropriate behavior during an in-room Atlanta hotel session, including masturbation, repeated insistence on "spreading his butt cheeks," and forcible hugging.
- On May 9, Travolta's lawyer Marty Singer furnished proof that his client had not been in California on the date and time of John Doe #1's alleged transaction. The plaintiff insisted the incident still happened, but that he got the date wrong.
- On May 15, 2012, Okorocha filed a request to dismiss Doe #1 from the suit.
- Three days later, on May 18, John Doe #2 filed a motion to dismiss the case completely, saying publicly that he'd chosen Gloria Allred instead of Okorocha to represent his interests. There is no record of his case being filed again.
These details correspond with the largest financial claim on the loss-run document, a total payout of $80,750: The claimant is listed as "unknown"; the line-item description states the claim arose from a "suit brought on behalf of the plaintiffs alleging assault, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress" (the same grounds as John Does #1 and #2); and the loss date is May 15, 2012, the same day John Doe #1 was dropped from the suit and three days before John Doe #2 filed a motion to dismiss the case completely. On the report, there are no other claims filed around this time.
All of which is to say that despite Marty Singer's public insistence that no settlement offer was made in the John Doe case, Travolta's insurance company tells a different story. (It bears noting that $80,750, while not an insubstantial amount, is orders of magnitude lower than the $2 million in damages the John Does initially demanded.)
The other insurance payout cited in the report—a far smaller amount of $3,850—
went to was associated with a claim from Mark Higgins, identified here as a "former employee" whose attorney issued a "demand letter...alleging sexual assault." That would presumably be the same Mark Higgins profiled by the Limerick Leader in 2007, an Irish triathlete turned sports-injury therapist who "treated some high profile stars including John Travolta who suffered a back injury while playing golf in Adare some years ago."
Adare Manor is an extravagant five-star hotel and golf resort in Limerick where Travolta has stayed. In May 2004, ShowBiz Ireland photographed the actor driving his late son Jett around the Emerald Isle grounds; you can still find those images on Getty. Higgins, who now lives outside of Chicago with his wife and son, resided in Ireland until 2005. His LinkedIn profile puts him at the Irish Institute of Physical Therapy and Applied Science from 2001 to 2004. (An Adare Manor Human Resources representative couldn't confirm or deny whether Adare directly employed Higgins, citing a difficulty with employee-record archives prior to 2006.) So the timetable aligns, as does the pattern of transaction surrounding previous allegations: One of Higgins's professional specialties is medical massage.
Update: The day after this article was published, Higgins—who did not respond to repeated voicemail and email messages last week—wrote an email saying, "I don't know what you are talking about...you have wrong information" and demanding that his name be removed.
Even Fabian Zanzi's suit alleged that Travolta's assault began with the seemingly innocent request of a neck rub. His name and information also appears on the insurance-claim list; it shows up as open and unpaid.
The names of three other Travolta associates appear on the insurance list, citing claims brought on by attorney demand letters "alleging sexual assault" that hadn't been fulfilled. One is Mark Riccardi, a veteran stunt-coordinator who'd worked as Travolta's stunt-double for years on projects like Get Shorty, Face/Off, and Battlefield Earth and continues to use his Travolta affiliation as a selling point, even on his Twitter account. Riccardi's attorney, Michael Bressler, denied any knowledge of the demand letter. "He's made no allegations against Mr. Travolta," Bressler insisted over the phone. "I ask that you not include his name."
The report also states that someone named Anthony Brazas—which happens to be the name of Travolta's former driver and stand-in—issued an attorney demand letter "alleging sexual assault," but has not been paid by the insurer. Update: A day after this story was published, Brazas responded to our prior attempts to reach him. "I have worked with John Travolta years ago," he wrote in an email, "but I don't have any claims against him. I do not know about the claims you wrote about."
Another individual named James Carney, whose identity and relationship to Travolta couldn't be determined, is also listed as having made an assault claim. Update: A Thai massage therapist in Hawaii named James Carney, whom we had never contacted or heard of before today, emailed to insist that he is not the James Carney who made the claim and demand that his name be removed.
At the time of the report, all six claims were listed as still open.
We contacted Travolta's lawyer Marty Singer, Mark Higgins, Zanzi's attorneys, Tony Brazas, Okorie Okorocha, and AIG for comment; none returned our messages.
Correction and update: This post initially described the payments recorded in the loss-run report as having gone to two claimants. As some commenters have noted, the payments associated with the claims may have gone to reimburse Constellation for legal costs incurred while defending them. In a letter to Gawker sent yesterday, Travolta's attorney Marty Singer claimed that the document "reflects costs and expenses incurred, which is consistent with legal fees being paid in connection with the defense of lawsuits." In the same letter, Singer pointedly refused to "validate the authenticity of the alleged insurance document."
Absent a definitive claim from Singer that the payments were for reimbursements, rather than settlements, we can't say for sure who received them. It is worth noting, however, that the John Does #1 and #2 case file shows that it was terminated 14 days after it was filed and that, aside from a one-page document certifying that he was appearing as Travolta's attorney, Singer filed no motions or other documents with the court. Chartis paid out $80,750 in association with that complaint.
The headline of this post originally read "Document Shows John Travolta Paid at Least $84,000 Last Year Over Sexual Assault Claims"; it has been corrected to reflect what the story reported—that Travolta's insurer made the payments.
[Image via Getty]