Monday 17 June 2002

Mariah "Hero" sued for $20 mil

Mariah Carey has a legal case that won't go away. On Friday, I was faxed papers showing that Christopher Selletti is suing her again over the song "Hero". He wants $20 million in damages. Selletti is also suing Carey's attorneys, Orin Snyder and Jonathan Liebman (now with Brillstein Grey Entertainment) and her songwriting partner Walter Afanasieff. He accuses them of falsifying evidence and lying in the "Hero" case.

Selletti has tried suing Carey before over "Hero", only to have his case dismissed. But, as I first reported six years ago, there is a lot of questionable stuff in this case - enough to warrant a real trial with real testimony presided over by an objective jurist. But Judge Denny Chin has consistently done strange things regarding this case and these participants. In the 60-plus page document, Selletti's attorney Jeffrey Levitt cites many of Chin's odd decisions.

At the center of this case is Selletti's contention that he gave a copy of a poem he wrote to R&B star Sly Stone in 1991 from a book of poems he kept with him. Selletti had been Stone's driver while he recorded with Earth, Wind and Fire around the same time that Carey was in the same studio. Stone, Selletti says, agreed to help place the lyrics, then gave them to Carey or someone associated with her. Those lyrics, Selletti says, became "Hero". When he saw what had happened, Selletti mailed himself the lyrics, thus creating a homemade copyright.

However, Carey's case becomes murky when it comes to dates: her lawyer insisted to Chin in court that the song "Hero" was written for the 1992 movie Hero starring Dustin Hoffman. Unfortunately, Carey's notebook shows that the writing session for the song did not take place until a month after the movie Hero was released. Of all the pieces of information Judge Chin ignored in the case, this seemed to be the most blatant. It's not possible to write a song for a movie that's already playing in theaters.

Sources who worked on the movie "Hero" and its soundtrack confirmed for this reporter back in 1998 that Carey was never supposed to write a song for the movie. A source close to the soundtrack insisted: "We reached out to Afanasieff and he sent in some instrumental music. But [director] Stephen Frears rejected it. There was never any discussion of Mariah being involved." Sandy Isaac, one of the movie's producers, said that as far as he knew Carey was never asked to participate.

Carey, at the time, was knee-deep in plagiarism cases. She settled two of them with a million bucks apiece on the grounds that the writers of the songs involved would say she was innocent of wrongdoing. In two cases - the songs "Emotions" and "Fantasy" - Carey simply lifted the entire recordings from existing songs, then paid the writers afterward.

In the worst case, over the song "Can't Let Go", Carey's then-manager Randy Hoffman, a partner of her husband Tommy Mottola, went to see a potential damaging witness wired up to a hidden tape recorder. He hoped to make the guy contradict himself. The witness stood his ground, but the tape wound up in the court record. I reported on its existence for the first time in 1998.

Why Carey just doesn't settle with Selletti may have more to do with practicality than pride. After "Hero" came out she pledged the proceeds from it to a charity. She ultimately made a $200,000 contribution to a fund for the victims of the Long Island Railroad shooting. "Hero" has since become an anthem for her. Letting go of it now, after 10 years, would seem unthinkable. And yet Selletti has been steadfast in pursuing this case. Attorney Levitt has carefully and painstakingly laid out the history of the case for Judge Chin. The big question is whether or not the Judge will read this document, or whether it's time for new eyes to get Chris Selletti his day in court.

(Fox 411)

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