The dispute between star violinist David Garrett and porn actress Ashley Youdan is being conducted by two very different men: A conservative hanseatic media lawyer against a New York Mafia defender.
A corner office in the 162 meter highDuMont building on New York’s prestigious Madison Avenue. Mountains of files are piled up on the window sill, loose documents are scattered across the floor. A stout, bald man wearing a tailored blue suit and braces featuring a bird motif is enthroned in his office chair in the midst of this chaos. Throughout a long career, star lawyer Edward Hayes, 68, has defended Hollywood actors as well as mafiosi, contract killers and other “unscrupulous types”, as he describes them.
His most recent case, on the other hand, is completely harmless by Hayes’ standards. His client is not a murderess, but rather the porn actress and escort lady Ashley Youdan. She claims that her ex-boyfriend, German star violinist David Garrett, abused her and forced her to have sex. For this, Hayes wants to win at least twelve million dollars from Garrett, the claim for damages could rise as high as 20 million dollars. He already considers the case as good as won. “Garrett is clearly a major violinist”, says Hayes adding with a smile: “I will cut him in two pieces. Then he won’t be so grand.”
Harro von Have, a 6’3″ tall graying man in a dark blue suit, finds it difficult to conceal how much he is nauseated by his adversary. It is Thursday morning, in the courtyard of a hotel near Berlin’s Central Station. Von Have had an appointment in Berlin on the previous evening, now he has to return to his law office in Hamburg to continue to work on one of the most spectacular cases of his life.
Two lawyers that could hardly be more different
Aside from a penchant for good suits, Garrett’s lawyer has very little in common with the rough and tumble mafia defender Hayes. Among experts, the 59-year-old German media lawyer von Have is as well-known as the American. He has provided legal support to Hollywood productions such as “Inglourious Basterds”, “The Pianist” or “The Reader” through his law office, he works as a legal advisor for Veronica Ferres, Hape Kerkeling and Otto Waalkes. But the descendant of a family of merchants from Hamburg is considered to be extremely cautious, genteel, Hanseatic, a man who keeps a low profile. Von Have says: “I would have preferred a lawyer on the other side who works in accordance with our German professional and ethical standards.”
You cannot choose your opponents however, and from a dramaturgical point of view, every scriptwriter would confirm: This is what makes it so interesting. Two lawyers that could hardly be more different, are fighting for two clients hailing from two far removed worlds. On the one hand the buxom porn queen Youdan from a humble background, on the other the lonely, extremely rich star violinist.
The case, involving the clash between two completely different legal systems, is ideal material for a movie. Whereas German courts uphold the right to privacy, within the meaning of freedom of information in the United States, every private detail can be dragged into the public eye. Even if von Have and his client Garrett would like it to be otherwise: The medial mudslinging has long been in full swing. Therefore, the two Germans decided to fight back using the Americans’ own weapons.
Every detail of a civil action is public
After Youdan’s lawyer Edward Hayes filed a suit before the Supreme Court in Manhattan three weeks ago, Harro von Have launched a counter-attack at the beginning of this week: He is seeking ten million dollars in damages on behalf of his client for “intentional immoral damage to reputation”.
Harro von Have believes this whole mess would never have happened in the German legal system. “In Germany the court fees are calculated on the basis of the value in dispute – a six figure sum would be due for a million dollar lawsuit such as this.” In the USA conversely, you only pay a flat rate court fee of a few hundred dollars.
German lawyers are paid by the hour and may not receive less than the legally prescribed fees. A US lawyer such as Edward Hayes in contrast works on a results-only basis. If Youdan should win, he would receive a part of the value of the claim – in this case, 33 percent. If he loses, he is left empty-handed. “The economic risk for Youdan in taking Garrett to court is therefore practically negligible”, says von Have. Her lawyer Hayes on the other hand has a vested interest in pursuing the case right up to the last intimate revelation.
Unlike in Germany, every detail of a civil action in the United States is public, even if it only relates to unproven allegations. And therefore anyone can read what Garrett is supposed to have done to his former lover in Youdan’s statement of claim. The porn actress has filed 17 pages of serious allegations against the musician under case number 154738/2016. These involve cocaine, preferences for transsexuals, bizarre sex games and violence. Youdan claims that Garrett repeatedly abused her as well as breaking her rib during sex.
“I can get you out of anything”
“All this relates to the private sphere,” says Harro von Have. His client has never beaten a woman. People’s sexual preferences are nobody else’s business, even if they are prominent. In principle the rule applies: Rough sex or kinky sexual activities are not prohibited, as long as they are consensual. In the counterclaim, von Have’s law office writes that Youdan has composed her version of the story from individual details that have been incorrectly put together.
Edward Hayes is a colorful figure. He is preceded by a reputation of adapting things to make them fit. The American does not dispute that at all: “I can get you out of anything” is his motto. The bestselling author Tom Wolfe, one of his close friends, tellingly used Hayes as a model for the unscrupulous lawyer Tommy Killian in his novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” He helped actor Robert de Niro out of difficulties in a “private matter”. In return, de Niro arranged a minor role for him in the Mafia epic “The Godfather” out of gratitude.
Hayes is also certain he will win the case this time. “Garrett hurt her. Not only once, but several times. We will prove everything that is written in the statement of claim before the court.” The case of the escort lady is also a personal issue for him. “I don’t find it funny when someone beats a woman”, says the man, who claims he has never smoked or drank alcohol or coffee in his life. It reminds him of his childhood when his father beat his mother every day. Tears well up in brawny Hayes’ eyes as he says this.
Hayes’ case is based primarily on two recordings of telephone conversations and a medical report. This certifies that Youdan has kidney stones and an inflammation of the vagina. She claims that she became ill after a violent incident with Garrett in January 2015 which also involved secretions. “He confessed the urine thing in a phone conversation”, says Hayes. “We have a recording of it and this will be played to the court.”
Von Have believes the American lawyer is bluffing
Garrett’s lawyer Harro von Have says that he does not know these recordings, as the taking of evidence has not even begun. “But this is a good example of the difference between the German and the American legal positions. In Germany, illegally recorded sound recordings would not be permitted as evidence in court and may also not be published publicly.” In the United States, on the other hand, they may. Nevertheless, von Have believes the American lawyer is bluffing. “Even without specific medical knowledge, it is obviously completely absurd to assume you can get kidney stones simply through contact with foreign urine.”
Harro von Have’s night was short, he had no time for breakfast. But he needs a coffee now. He orders a cappuccino. Then he says: “The history of the matter would suggest that Ashley Youdan planned to prey upon and to blackmail David Garrett from their very first encounter.” This is also stated in the counterclaim which a cooperating New York law office has filed for him at the Supreme Court in Manhattan; von Have is not accredited for a US court.
He does not want to explain how he came to the blackmail theory at the present time. “We believe, unlike the opposing party, that the line of argument should be presented in the courtroom and not in the press.” But of course he is aware of rumors that have been discussed in American porn blogs over the past few days and they probably fit well into his concept.
“Victims of organized crime”
The allegation: Ashley Youdan worked for the long-controversial escort agency The Luxury Companion (TLC), whose business model is to act as a broker for private porn actresses and to prey upon rich clients deploying Mafia methods. Prostitution in the United States – with a few exceptions in the federal state of Nevada – is generally prohibited. A video recently appeared on YouTube in which the former porn actress Alexandra Mayers compares the Garrett-Fall with that of Charlie Sheen. The Hollywood actor outed himself as HIV-positive last year and stated that he had had to pay a lot of money to silence women who knew.
According to Mayers, one of the blackmailers had been Sheen’s ex-fiancée Brett Rossi. The porn actress also worked for TLC. “Garrett and Sheen were blackmailed in the same way,” Mayers told this newspaper. And like Youdan,Rossi also sued Sheen for damages. Mayers is convinced that “Garrett and Sheen are victims of organized crime within the porn industry”. She cannot prove these allegations however. But she is not alone with her theory.
Mike South, who was a producer and director of porn films in the 1990s and today knows the industry well as a blogger, also confirms that Ashley Youdan worked for ‘The Luxury Companion’. He can well imagine that she blackmailed Garrett. “A rumor is circulating in the industry that Youdan tried this before with another customer.” There is talk of a rich New York dentist.