An attorney for Sumner Redstone’s longtime live-in companion has fired back at lawyers representing Redstone’s daughter, as the two sides grapple over bringing the 94-year-old media mogul to a formal deposition to ask him about his billions in assets.
Ronald Richards said Redstone has lost some mental acuity, and claimed Redstone has declined into a mental state where he could not even recite his birth name at an earlier deposition.
Richards represents ex-companion Manuela Herzer, and he said Saturday his client “continues to believe that without a doubt that Mr. Redstone, who unfortunately has lost capacity, did not bring this lawsuit, does not know it exists … and had no involvement in the changes that were recently made to his personal trust.”
The latest round in the Herzer-Redstone litigation began last Tuesday, when the Herzer’s lawyers filed court papers to question the media mogul about why he made changes in his estate plan. Herzer and another of Redstone’s former live-in companions, Sydney Holland, have questioned whether the 94-year-old businessman or his daughter, Shari, made those choices.
Redstone owns controlling interest in Viacom, CBS and other media companies, worth about $5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
In an email sent Saturday to media, Richards accused Redstone’s daughter of perpetuating a “charade and fraud” as Redstone has not been seen in public in two years.
Richards was reacting to court documents filed last week by the Redstone family’s lawyers, who claimed “Herzer has made it abundantly clear that she will stop at nothing to obtain $70 million upon Redstone’s passing.”
They also accused Herzer of endangering Redstone’s health by seeking court orders to force him to give a deposition.
Herzer has already “struck out twice” with similar motions, according to Redstone’s lawyers. Although she is entitled to try again, she is “not entitled to kill Redstone in the process,” they said in their court papers.
Although state law is not as clear on the subject, federal law gives judges discretion to prevent depositions where the person to be questioned could risk be at risk of serious harm, according to Redstone’s attorneys.
Judge Robert Hess issued an order in a related action directing that Redstone’s deposition not be taken until his health improves, according to his lawyers’ court papers.
A hearing was originally scheduled for last Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, but is now rescheduled for next Friday, when Judge David Cowan is expected to decide whether he will rule on the motion or leave it to another judicial officer. Cowan dismissed Herzer’s first probate action regarding Redstone in 2016.
Redstone did give a brief deposition in one of those other cases in May 2016, but Herzer’s lawyers maintain it was insufficient. They say a longer session would be fair to Redstone if he is offered the opportunity to give it in his own home. They also say he could have the help of a speech therapist and that the deposition can be broken up into several sessions.
Redstone was executive chairman of both Viacom and CBS Corp. until stepping down in February 2016.
— Staff and wire reports