The Pooh Papers
POOH HEIRESS WON'T PAY MAID'S CLAIM
American Reporter Staff
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 4, 2002 -- A Beverly Hill heiress to Winnie the Pooh riches charged yesterday she is being "manipulated" and won't pay the remainder of a claim against her for firing Mireya Shea, the wife of American Reporter Editor-in-Chief Joe Shea.
"She didn't have the right to work," Patricia Slesinger said. The decision not to pay the Hollywood woman, who is a legal resident of the United States and a native of Peru, came as Slesinger fought with her husband on the telephone over the payment of $500,000 demanded this month and due again next month by her attorneys for work on her 11-year lawsuit with the Walt Disney Co. over past-due royalties in the case. Slesinger and her husband, David Benson, live in separate homes in Beverly Hills.
Joe Shea said he agreed to accept the damages claim in cash but paid the attorney he engaged to represent him some of the money out of the first payment. Slesinger had asked that the matter be handled out of court so as not to interfere with her lawsuit, Shea said, adding that he must now decide whether to pursue his claim in court or drop it. Slesinger said she would discuss it with her attorneys, who apparently were not made aware of the claim.
Complicating the matter is testimony given by Joe Shea and his wife in about 20 hours of depositions that ended on Dec. 2 at the Century City offices of O'Melveny & Myers, about a meeting Slesinger claims to have had with Disney merchandising executive Vince Jefferds in which he allegedly promised to pay her for videocassettes and other future technologies. Shea was presnt at various times when the issue was discussed in the Goldbook's office in Beverly Hills in 1983.
That alleged promise underlies her claim to some $1 billion in past due royalties and damages from the studio for videocassettes, DVDs, computer software and other exploitation of character rights stemming from the commercialization of British author A.A. Milne's best-selling children's books.
The discovery referee in that case, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Eagleson, cleared Shea to write about the deposition of Shea and his wife at the conclusion of Monday's deposition, pursuant to an agreement made with Disney's attorneys at the deposition of his wife.
Shea's attorney, Alexander J. Petale of Hollywood, accompanied Shea at the deposition, where Slesinger attorney Bonnie Eskenazi of Greenberg, Glusker, Machtinger, Fields & Claman also appeared. Ralph Shapira and Paul Darby represented Disney, which is being represented in the case by noted trial lawyer Daniel Petrocelli. The same attorneys and several others, along with a translator for Mireya Shea, appeared at her deposition.
Slesinger is principally represented by Bertram Fields, who won more than $300 million from Disney in a controversial lawsuit brought by former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg against the studio two years ago. Petale also represented Mireya Shea in her work-related claim.
Earlier, Slesinger had agreed to pay the claim in cash to the maid about a week after she fired her in a rage when Joe Shea quoted her in an article saying a judge's ruling in the case was "disgusting," an incident that was reported in the American Reporter earlier this year. When Shea refused to change the word, Slesinger fired his wife, who had been working in her home for two years.
Slesinger paid part of the claim, according to the Shea family, but balked at paying the rest after promising to do so twice in recent weeks, and then delaying or offering a partial payment, which was rejected.
Shea said the claim is probably worth far more than was agreed upon because Slesinger violated his civil rights as a reporter by "extorting" him to write what the heiress desired and used his wife as a pawn to enforce her desires.
"I don't think a jury of Los Angeles residents will find that my wife had any less of a right to work than two million other immigrants who reside in the City of Los Angeles. I also believe they will agree with me that using her as a pawn to change the character of stories in The American Reporter was an egregious violation of my civil rights for which she should be stiffly penalized."
In her home office Tuesday evening, which was strewn with work debris, disordered furniture and cigarette ashes, Slesinger said that only one maid was needed to prepare meals and clean the large mountaintop estate, and that a maid currently working there was able to do the work herself, but had Tuesday off.
Unbeknownst to Slesinger, that second maid was enroute to Mexico today after telling her sister that the work was so physically draining that she could not continue to do it alone. She had told her sister, a homeless woman who was taken to dinner with another homeless woman by the Sheas on Thanksgiving, that she would not return, Shea said.