Last October, as the #MeToo earthquake was beginning to rip through the Hollywood power structure following abuse allegations connected to producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Terry Crews significantly readjusted the national conversation.
In a series of tweets, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star laid out his own experience of sexual harassment. At a party in 2016, a "high-level Hollywood executive" came up to Crews and "groped my privates," the actor wrote. Crews later publicly identified his abuser as Adam Venit, a longtime industry power-player who represented marquee names, like Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, and Vince Vaughn. Crews went on to file both a police report about the incident, as well as a lawsuit against Venit and his agency, William Morris Endeavor.
But Crews' revelation reverberated well beyond his own case. His public stand detonated stereotypes by showing a 240-pound former NFL player could also be the victim of sexual assault, thus widening the lens of the #MeToo movement. Time included Crews among the "the silence breakers" named in the magazine's person of the year feature.
Now, Crews' legal case has come to an end. On Thursday, William Morris Endeavor announced the lawsuit has been settled.
"Terry Crews, Adam Venit and WME have settled the lawsuit Mr. Crews filed last year," the agency said in a statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "It will be dismissed."
According to Deadline, Venit is also planning to retire from WME on Monday. He had previously been suspended and demoted following Crews's allegation.
After news of the settlement and Venit's exit, Crews responded on Twitter with a single word: "ACCOUNTABILITY," he wrote.
That was the theme Crews continually hit on after speaking out about his experience.
"People need to be held accountable," the actor told "Good Morning America" last November. "This is the deal about Hollywood. It is an abuse of power. This guy, again, he's one of the most powerful man in Hollywood, and he looked at me at the end as if, 'Who is going to believe you?'"
"The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand was that he held the power. That he was in control," Crews told the Senate Judiciary Committee this summer. "As I shared my story, I was told over and over that this was not abuse. This was just a joke. This was just horseplay. But I can say one man's horseplay is another man's humiliation."
In his lawsuit, filed last December, Crews recounted his alleged violent encounter with the star agent. "Venit, upon his first meeting Crews, viciously grabbed Crews' penis and testicles so hard that it caused Crews immediate pain in a blatant and unprovoked sexual assault," the lawsuit stated.
Crews, who was not Venit's client, reportedly told his own WME agent about the assault the next day. But the agency did nothing, his lawsuit claimed, as part of "corporate culture that fosters environments in which WME agents are knowingly permitted and encouraged to engage in misconduct, including sexually predatory conduct."
In court filings, Venit denied the allegations, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Reporter, a criminal investigation into the assault spearheaded by the Los Angeles Police Department commenced last November. In March, the prosecutors announced they were declining criminal charges due to "the lapse in statute of limitations for misdemeanor cases."
But the allegations also triggered an internal review at WME. The Reporter wrote that the agency's internal review determined that Crews' allegation about Venit was "indicative of a pattern, rather than an isolated event." The agent was bumped down from his position as the head of the agency's motion picture group.
Venit's demotion - and now exit - from the industry represented a significant nose dive for a man who was once a considerable force within Hollywood for more than three decades. According to Deadline, the agent started out working in the mailroom at Creative Artists Agency in 1986 after dropping out of law school. He later went on to represent some of the biggest movie stars in the business.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post
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