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Manager of young actors arrested in molestation case

Martin Weiss of Santa Monica is held on suspicion of sexually assaulting a boy over a three-year period. Police believe there may be other alleged victims.

December 01, 2011|By Dawn C. Chmielewski and Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times

A Hollywood manager who specializes in representing young actors has been arrested on suspicion of molesting one of his clients, and police suspect there may be other possible victims.

Police arrested Martin Weiss on Tuesday on suspicion of committing lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14, said Det. John Alviani, coordinator for the sexual assault unit of the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga Division.

Detectives executed search warrants in Santa Monica, where the 47-year-old Weiss lives and runs his business, Alviani said. The alleged victim, an aspiring singer and musician formerly represented by Weiss, told police he had been sexually assaulted in Weiss' Santa Monica apartment and in a home in Woodland Hills, according to an affidavit attached to the warrant.

Superior Court Judge Melvin Sandvig set bail at $300,000, Alviani said. As of Wednesday evening, Weiss was being held at Men's Central Jail. He could not be reached for comment.

Police sought triple the standard bail because, Alviani said. "There were multiple counts alleged in the complaint."

According to an affidavit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, an 18-year-old man went to police Nov. 17 to report that Weiss had molested him from the age of 11 or 12. Det. Fernando Avila wrote that the man said he had been forced to have sex with Weiss about 30 to 40 times over a three-year period, until he reached 15 years old.

"The victim said Weiss told him that what they were doing was common practice in the entertainment industry, and if the victim were to tell anyone it would ruin the victim's career and hurt them both," according to the affidavit.

The victim said the abuse stopped when he reached age 15 and severed his business ties with Weiss, according to the affidavit. The teen, fearful that there might be other victims, confronted Weiss in his Santa Monica apartment Nov. 15 and taped their conversation.

According to the affidavit, Weiss acknowledged the sexual contact but denied it was abuse. "Weiss intimated that he targeted the victim because the victim showed interest, and Weiss claimed the Penn State situation was different because 'those kids don't want it.'"

Two days later, the teenager went to police with the recording. He told police other young men had spent the night at Weiss' home, and he was afraid that others had been assaulted, according to the affidavit.

"The victim stated he never reported the crimes to his parents or police because he was afraid he would not be believed, or that it would tear apart or divide his family," according to the document.

Police obtained a warrant Monday to search Weiss' apartment and vehicle. They were looking for child pornography, letters and photographs depicting the now 18-year-old or other potential child victims, according to the warrant application. It is unclear what was obtained in the search.

"Based on the victim's allegations, the suspect had other child clients," Avila wrote. "It leads me to believe there may be others just like the victim, who did not disclose the abuse and are currently unknown to me."

The arrest comes just weeks after the Los Angeles Times wrote about a convicted child molester and registered sex offender working in Hollywood and helping cast children for roles in motion pictures. Advocates for young actors renewed their criticism Wednesday of the entertainment industry for failing to perform adequate background checks on managers, casting directors and others who have access to minors.

"We're saddened that there was another alleged victim of this type of abuse and thankful that they're willing to speak out," said Paula Dorn, co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit group for child actors and their families. "It's clear we at least need the minimum requirement that other people who work with children have to meet to send a message that child actor safety is a priority."

David Ring, an L.A. attorney specializing in representing victims of sexual harassment, assault or abuse, said perpetrators tend to put themselves in positions of authority, where they can gain a child's trust.

"Perpetrators go to the environment that allows them to work with children without anyone suspecting them," Ring said. "That's why you find them in schools, Little League, Hollywood talent agencies and church groups. They go where their prey is, and because they have worked themselves into that environment, they can avoid suspicion for a while because they're supposed to be around kids."

Weiss' firm, Martin Weiss Management, specializes in work with child actors. According to a biography posted on the company's website, he has worked full time as a manager since the mid-1990s. His young clients have secured roles on such cable TV shows as Nickelodeon channel's "iCarly" and Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie," network shows including "Criminal Minds" and "Parenthood," and movies including Disney's "The Muppets Movie" and Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill."

The manager's clients received an email alert Tuesday.

"It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I immediately dissolve Martin Weiss Management and release all actors from their contracts," the email said. "Please do not try [to] contact me. I will let everyone know what is happening at the proper time. Thank you for being wonderful clients and friends."

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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