A federal judge dismissed Leon Black's conspiracy suit against his former business associates and his assault accuser, but didn't sanction his lawyers
- A federal judge derided Black's allegations in a lawsuit against his former business partner and others as "more creative writing than factual averment."
- Black, who alleged a plot to damage his reputation, plans to appeal, his attorney said.
A federal judge in Manhattan has dismissed a lawsuit by former Apollo CEO
In blockbuster court filings in January, Black had described a hostile faction within
Black filed his lawsuit after his former lover, Guzel Ganieva, sued him in New York state court accusing him of harassing and sexually assaulting her during their yearslong affair. Black has denied her allegations, and insisted their relationship was consensual throughout.
On Thursday, New York federal judge Paul Engelmayer dismissed the RICO claims without allowing Black to amend them, saying that his allegations hadn't shown any proof of a conspiracy between Harris, Rubenstein and Ganieva. But he declined to sanction his lawyers, as Ganieva's attorneys had requested.
The judge ruled that Black had not detailed allegations about how those three figures worked together, or even what their relationship was.
"Under the governing case
"These nebulous and overtly conjectural allegations do not come close to knitting Ganieva, Harris and Rubenstein together in any solid or coherent way in concerted acts toward a common end," he wrote.
Black plans to appeal the court's ruling and to pursue claims against Ganieva, Harris, and Rubenstein, according to his attorney, Susan Estrich. Estrich did not comment on whether Black would pursue defamation claims against Wigdor LLP, the firm that represents Ganieva, whose lawsuit against him is still pending in New York state court.
"The evidence that has been uncovered demonstrates that these individuals conspired to try to destroy Mr. Black's reputation and end his professional career," Estrich said in a statement Thursday. "He remains confident that those responsible will be held accountable."
On Thursday, Judge Engelmayer stopped short of granting Wigdor's motion for sanctions against Black's lawyers for bringing RICO claims in the first place. (Black's suit had originally also targeted Wigdor in his RICO conspiracy claims, before dropping those claims against the law firm).
The judge wrote that while Black's RICO claims weren't detailed enough to keep his suit alive, they weren't "patently frivolous" to the point of warranting sanctions against his attorneys.
According to Black, Harris formed a "war council" comprising Apollo employees and PR people including Steven Rubenstein. Black claimed they worked to further undermine him at the company after news reports revealed the extent of Black's ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Harris's goal, Black alleged, was to usurp the CEO role, and, failing that, to tarnish his reputation. (Harris has repeatedly denied Black's allegations).
To that end, Black alleged, Harris eventually found common cause with Ganieva. In her own suit, Ganieva accused Black of assaulting and bullying her during their affair, and of even flying her to Epstein's Palm Beach mansion on one occasion and pressuring her to have a threesome, which Ganieva said she refused. Black has also repeatedly denied those allegations.
Harris, who sought to dismiss Black's lawsuit, told the court he wasn't responsible for the "unfortunate consequences of Black's own actions."
"We are pleased the court swiftly and fairly dismissed the case and believe the decision speaks for itself," Jonathan Rosen, a representative for Harris, said in a statement.
Ganieva's lawyers have also repeatedly denied associations with Harris and others.
"When Leon Black first filed this lawsuit, our immediate reaction was that he did so to retaliate against our client Guzel Ganieva for speaking out about the sexual violence that she endured at his hands, and to retaliate against the lawyers that were representing her," Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor, who represents Ganieva, told Insider.
"We said all along that the allegations about our activity and our client's activity were complete fabrications, and today the court ruled exactly that." she said.
A lawyer for Steve Rubenstein also lauded the ruling.
"We were confident from the outset that this ever-changing and concocted tale, packed with lies about Steven, would not withstand judicial scrutiny, and we are gratified that the court agreed," said Jacob Buchdahl, partner at Susman Godfrey, who represents Rubenstein.
A representative for Apollo declined to comment. Apollo is not involved in the legal disputes between Black and Ganieva.
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