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Leonard Cohen testifies in ex-business manager's harassment trial

The singer-songwriter was the first witness in the case against Kelley Lynch, who allegedly sent him and others thousands of emails and left voice mails violating restraining orders.

April 07, 2012|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Kelley Lynch, left, a former business manager for singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen, in L.A. County Superior Court with her public defender.
Kelley Lynch, left, a former business manager for singer and songwriter… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The woman's voice in telephone messages left for singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was low and steady.

"You are a sick man....You are a thief....You are a common thief."

Prosecutors say the voice mails were from Cohen's former business manager, Kelley Lynch, 55, who is on trial for allegedly making harassing phone calls to Cohen, sending him, his attorneys and other people he knew thousands of emails and violating restraining orders.

Lynch, sitting next to her attorneys, occasionally smiled as voice mails from 2011 were played for jurors in L.A. County Superior Court on Friday. Lynch has pleaded not guilty.

Cohen was the prosecution's first witness, and he testified that he and Lynch had a business and personal relationship for about 17 years. At one point, he said, they had a "brief" intimate relationship. He said he fired her as his business manager in 2004.

As soon as he dismissed Lynch, she began calling and emailing him, Cohen said.

"It started with just a few now and then, but it eventually accelerated to 20 or 30 a day," said the 77-year-old singer, who is known for such hits as "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah."

The voice mail messages, Cohen said, were up to 10 minutes long. The caller leveled accusations and threats at him and said he "needed to be taken down and shot."

"It makes me feel very conscious about my surroundings," Cohen said. "Every time I see a car slow down, I get worried."

For years, Cohen said, he's been concerned for the safety of his family members, some of whom had a close relationship with Lynch.

Emails allegedly from Lynch were often 50 pages long, Cohen said.

"My sense of alarm has increased over the years as the volume of emails has increased," he said.

Deputy City Atty. Sandra Jo Streeter said Lynch's emails were extremely hostile toward Cohen and other artists and public figures. For example, several emails included the phrase "execute Steve Cooley," a reference to the L.A. County district attorney.

Cohen had obtained numerous restraining orders in California and Colorado, where Lynch lived for some time, but calls and emails continued despite the orders, Streeter said.

In his opening statements, Michael Kelly, a public defender representing Lynch, said the case "is very much about relationships and how relationships oftentimes get messy." He said Cohen's attorneys have "done everything in their power" to undermine his client's credibility and have even blamed her for Cohen's financial problems.

"Her name is not Leonard Cohen," Kelly said. "She's not a celebrity. She's not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…so she's at a disadvantage here."

Kelly said Lynch's emails concerned "legitimate purposes," including questions on how to get information for her taxes.

Cohen sued Lynch in 2005, accusing her of stealing $5 million from his personal accounts and investments while he lived for several years at a Zen monastery near Los Angeles.

A judge granted Cohen a default judgment in that case, ordering Lynch to pay $9.5 million.

Lynch is being held at Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood in lieu of $25,000 bail. The trial is expected to resume Monday.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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