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Steve Cooley and Alan Jackson join Hollywood legal battle

June 14, 2013|By Daniel Miller
  • Former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, left, and former Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson are representing film financier David Bergstein in separate lawsuits.
Former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, left, and former Deputy… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

Former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and former Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson have joined a high-stakes Hollywood legal battle related to the failed movie business dealings of construction magnate Ron Tutor and a partner.

Last month, Cooley and Jackson became members of the legal team representing controversial film financier David Bergstein, who is involved in several lawsuits associated with the bankruptcies of film companies he co-owned with Tutor, the chief executive of Tutor Perini Corp.

Tutor and Bergstein made waves in Hollywood in the 2000s by acquiring movie distribution firms ThinkFilm and Capitol Films and producing several pictures, but were sued for not paying back loans they had gotten to finance some movies.

In 2011, for example, Tutor and Bergstein settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed on behalf of the now-defunct hedge fund D.B. Zwirn, the main backer of the duo's film ventures.

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In a brief telephone interview Friday, Tutor distanced himself from the lawsuits involving the former prosecutors. “I don't know Cooley or Jackson from Adam other than I know who Cooley is,” he said. “And I have no association with Bergstein in any way.”

Cooley's involvement in an ongoing breach of contract case brought by Bergstein in June 2012 was disclosed in a May 9 legal filing.

“This is a civil matter in a civil context,” said Cooley, who heads the Rolling Hills consulting firm Steve Cooley & Associates. “Alan Jackson was hired unbeknown to me and I was hired unbeknown to him — probably — on separate matters. David is the client and he gets to pick the people he wants to advance his cause.”

Jackson, who is co-representing Bergstein in a civil extortion lawsuit filed in May, now works for downtown L.A.-based Palmer Lombardi & Donohue LLP.

“David is a respected businessman and a community leader who has been bullied and victimized by individuals who think they can take advantage of him,” said Jackson, who left the district attorney's office in February after his bid to become district attorney failed. “David asked me to represent him to ensure his rights are protected and that this sort of unjust and unlawful conduct doesn't go unchallenged.”

Legal adversaries of Bergstein questioned the role of the former criminal prosecutors, speculating that Cooley and Jackson had been hired as an intimidation tactic or for their connections to the district attorney's office.

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Bergstein said in a statement provided to The Times by Jackson that the goal of the hires was to “put together the best litigation team possible in order to protect my name, my businesses and my family. There are consequences for doing harm to others and I've been playing defense long enough. From now on we are going to aggressively make sure that the individuals and their attorneys who are culpable are also held responsible.”

The two cases are separate and Cooley and Jackson are not working together. Cooley, district attorney from 2000 to 2012, is co-representing Bergstein in a case filed by the financier and several business entities against lender Aramid Entertainment Fund, Aramid Chairman David Molner and others.

Jackson, whose opponent in the district attorney race, Jackie Lacey, was supported by Cooley, is representing Bergstein in a case he and a related company filed against entrepreneur Paul Parmar, Aramid, Molner and others.

Aramid was the lead petitioning creditor in Chapter 11 bankruptcies that five Bergstein and Tutor-owned companies have been the subject of since March 2010. The cases continue to work their way through U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles and are presided over by Judge Barry Russell.

This week, Russell issued rulings in the bankruptcies that dismissed several claims against Tutor, Bergstein and entities related to them. Molner, whose company Aramid is funding the bankruptcy litigation on behalf of the debtors, said he would appeal the decisions.

Entrepreneur Parmar said the hiring of Cooley and Jackson conceals a hidden agenda.

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“What possible explanation is there for hiring not one, but two former high-ranking criminal prosecutors, if not to use their influence to garner a criminal complaint against commercial adversaries?” Parmar said. “And this is a common tactic that David uses, instead of meeting his obligations. He would rather spend money with lawyers than pay his creditors.”

Cooley denied that assertion: “I don't think [Bergstein] is trying to curry favor; I think he is trying to get the right people in the right places.”

Bergstein also is represented in both cases by attorney Alex Weingarten.

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