"Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Leonard Rowe Story
At about 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, Leonard Rowe, a 62-year-old black man was startled by a loud bang on the front door of his home in Johns Creek, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta where he lives with his wife and 24-year old daughter. Living in a safe, gated community, he decided to open the door although dressed only in his under shorts. Perhaps, he thought, there was an emergency and a neighbor needed help.
Instead he was confronted by 20-25 U.S. marshals, along with half a dozen city policemen, standing around his door and on his lawn with high-powered assault weapons drawn and pointed at him. Without a warrant, they arrested him and placed his hands and legs in chains.
Hearing the commotion, his wife and daughter awakened. Dressed only in their underclothes, guns were pointed at them and loud vocal demands were shouted for them to come out with their hands up. The U.S. Marshals then proceeded to enter their home.
Soon Leonard found himself locked up in the Robert A. Deyton Detention Center until his release about four months later on his 63rd birthday on August 1st. The terror of this incident will live with Leonard and his family for the rest of their lives. At age 13, Leonard had lost his father fighting in Vietnam; by age 63, his loss of faith in the U.S. justice system was confirmed.
What follows is Leonard's personal story. It's a story of how racism in the entertainment industry and legal malpractice, fraud and corruption by prominent attorneys and federal judges have led to so many grave injustices being perpetrated against his family and his race:
I, Leonard Rowe, have worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years. During those years, I have dealt with practically all of the major talent agencies that represent performing musical entertainers. I have dealt with The William Morris Agency (WMA) (now William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC), Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and other major agencies on an on-going basis and have first-hand knowledge of the racist and discriminatory principles, policies and practices of that industry.
Black Promoters Association Formed To End Racial Discrimination
I have toured entertainers all over America and abroad and helped many black entertainers get established such as Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Prince and many others early in their careers before they became international mega-stars. Once they became "major black talent," I and other black concert promoters were redlined out of the picture. Entertainment industry leaders, particularly The William Morris Agency and Creative Artists Agency, made sure that no black promoters ever got a contract to promote any white performers and made it near impossible for black promoters to promote any major black talent. In those very rare instances that I promoted a tour for a major black performer, it was because I managed to circumvent the agencies and dealt directly with the performer.
Michael Jackson with Leonard Rowe
The racial discrimination against black promoters in the entertainment industry became so intolerable that a group of us decided to form the Black Promoters Association (BPA) for which I served as president from 1996 to 2006.The goal of the BPA was to secure equality and fairness for African-American promoters in the concert promotion industry before we all became extinct.
By February 1998, I had become exhausted and frustrated from pleading and trying to reason with Creative Artists Agency and The William Morris Agency to stop their racially exclusionary business practices and to finally give blacks in the industry equal opportunity. I would often find myself praying and asking God to please soften their hearts and allow them to show us compassion. It never happened.
We knew we could not afford costly litigation against behemoth companies with so much money, power and political clout. So in 1998, three other black concert promoters and I decided to seek out a law firm that would take our case on a contingency basis.
New York Lawyers Investigate Our Charges and Provide Hope
After meeting in New York in February with Martin Gold and Christine Lepera of the law firm Gold, Farrell & Marks, Martin Gold said they wanted to do some investigation into the matter and would get back to me. Two weeks later they called and told me that the allegations and complaints we had made seemed to be valid. Not only did they believe we had a very strong case against the top two booking agencies (The William Morris Agency and Creative Artists Agency), but also against all of the booking agencies and white promoters in the concert business.
Attorney Gold stated that all of the agencies operated in a parallel fashion and were all breaking the law. He also stated that they were all violating our civil rights. His law firm was anxious for me to return to New York to sign a contract for them to represent us and to begin forming the complaint.
At that time, I was still hesitant to sue. I was closing in on the age of fifty and this business was the only profession I had ever known. I was still hoping that the booking agencies would change their ways. In April, I received another call from Christine Lepera urging me to call her so we could move forward. But it wasn't until August, after our treatment from The William Morris Agency and Creative Artists worsened, that I returned Ms. Lepera's call and scheduled a meeting the following week. The agencies had blatantly continued to conduct business like it was their God-given right to discriminate against black people, so I was left with no other choice than to take legal action against the Hollywood elite.
Eight Booking Agencies and Twenty-Six Caucasian Concert Promoters Sued
At a meeting in September, attorneys Gold and Lepera, based on their investigations, explained to me that we weren't just going to sue the two top agencies but all the agencies, and the concert promoters, for discrimination and violation of antitrust laws. On November 19, 1998, we filed our lawsuit, Rowe Entertainment, Inc. et al vs The William Morris Agency, Inc. et al, in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and filed an amended complaint on August 9, 1999. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss our case and soon thereafter the judge heard oral arguments to determine whether or not the case would be allowed to proceed.
We were suing eight booking agencies and twenty-six concert promoters. At the end of the hearing, the judge asked the dozens of attorneys in the courtroom to please take their attorney hats off for a second. He stated that this was a very ugly case and told the defendants' attorneys that it would collectively cost their clients over $100 million to defend this type of lawsuit. He asked them not to do this injustice to their clients and stated that he believed they could work something out with the plaintiffs' attorneys that would be cheaper than trying to defend the case. The defendants' attorneys did not mumble a word. They were too defiant and refused to work anything out with us.
Our attorneys thought we would hear from the court sometime in January 2000, but that didn't happen. As the months dragged on without a word from federal judge Robert P. Patterson, I became a nervous wreck. In order to keep my peace of mind, I spent a lot of time praying to God to be with us.
On June 30, 2000, Martin Gold's office called. We had received the judge's opinion and order, and prevailed on all counts against the defendants. I immediately called all the other plaintiffs and drove to my wife's job to tell her the great news.
Battle Rages On, Smaller Agencies Begin to Settle, Willie Gary Joins Fight
In 2001, the president of one of the smaller agencies, a very nice guy, called and asked if I would object to meeting with him in Los Angeles. I told him that I did not mind meeting with him. The following day we met at his office. During our meeting, we decided to settle for a minimal amount. By this time, the black promoters had started protesting outside the Los Angeles office of Creative Artists Agency and picketed every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
Realizing what we were up against, I knew we needed more legal help. After picketing one day, I happened to see a replay of a 60 Minutes story on attorney Willie Gary. During the segment, he emphasized that he would always vigorously fight for his client's civil rights. I arranged to meet with Mr. Gary shortly thereafter. He stated he had heard about the case and would be happy to join us in our fight. At the time, I was ecstatic. Little did I know that this man and his law firm would eventually betray and defraud us.
Shortly after Mr. Gary and his firm came on board, the discovery phase of our case began. As discovery proceeded, more and more deplorable evidence mounted against the defendants. A second agency decided to settle. Meanwhile, I received a call from an insider at one of the biggest agencies who flatly stated, "You get their emails and your case will be over!"
After wrestling with my New York attorneys over this matter, they finally filed a motion to get access to the defendants' emails. CAA and The William Morris Agency raised every roadblock possible to prevent the court from allowing that to happen. After months of wrangling, the judge ruled that we could, following an established protocol, gain access to their company emails. We, the plaintiffs, would have to find a company to extract the emails and we would have to pay the costs for the email discovery. The company chosen by our attorneys for the electronic search was Electronic Evidence Discovery (EED) based in Kirkland, Washington (EED is now known as Documents Technology, Inc). I was told by my attorney Martin Gold that the cost to retrieve the emails would be $200,000. At this time, we, the plaintiffs, didn't have the money, but I knew we needed the evidence those emails would provide.
Another critical component of the judge's protocol was that the attorneys for the plaintiffs, who had paid for the emails, would review them first under stringent guidelines under the rules set forth in the protocol established by the court.
By this time, one of the defendants, Clear Channel, had purchased SFX -- the conglomerate that owned all of the white concert promoters. It was now November 2001, and damaging admissions were made during depositions of Clear Channel employees.
Willie Gary planned a press conference in New York to publicize the lawsuit and his joining our case. But Gary decided to cancel the press conference because he had received a call from Ray Heslin, one of my New York attorneys. Heslin and Martin Gold became partners in the law firm RubinBaum that was formed in July 1999 when Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman merged with Gold, Farrell & Marks.
By now, I had become very suspicious of our New York law firm RubinBaum. Martin Gold, our lead attorney, had backed away from our case and assigned Ray Heslin to ostensibly oversee everything, but I knew that Gold was calling the shots from behind the scenes. Heslin, whom I had no respect for whatsoever as an attorney, was a longtime friend of Clear Channel's attorney Dale Head.
Clear Channel's Settlement Provides Resources to Conduct Electronic Discovery
I decided myself to call a press conference in New York and got commitments from prominent civil rights leaders to join and assist me in organizing the conference. We began sending out invitations to all of the major media outlets. A few days after sending out the invitations, I got word that Clear Channel wanted to settle. A settlement conference was scheduled for two days later at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts to be mediated by Charles Ogletree, a Harvard Law professor. Gary was not informed about this until I told him. He flew to Boston to participate in the negotiations and a settlement close to eight figures was reached. Most of that settlement was eaten up by the attorneys. However, the plaintiffs now had the $200,000 needed to move forward with e-discovery.
Signs of Legal Malpractice and Corruption Spreading
While in New York one day at the RubinBaum office, I was outside Ray Heslin's office waiting to see him when I overheard him talking to someone about a meeting they had with our defendants the day before. This was very alarming because I had not been told about the meeting. I began to feel that something unethical was happening with this law firm. It was also clear that Martin Gold was avoiding me as much as possible.
On June 1, 2002, RubinBaum was acquired by Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (SNR), a big international law firm in which Martin Gold became a partner. SNR's long list of corporate clients included such giants as SONY Corporation, NBC Universal, Vivendi Universal, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, etc. One has to wonder how the partners at SNR would view our case against CAA and The William Morris Agency, giants in the entertainment industry. I'll bet the players in the old white boys' network who ran the companies that were SNR's major clients wouldn't look favorably on our lawsuit.
By now EED, the email discovery company Gold recruited for the plaintiffs, had retrieved the emails from CAA and The William Morris Agency. I was told that it would take about six weeks to receive the results of the company's research into the emails. We had provided certain key words for EED to search in the emails of music agents. Certain key words included racial slurs such as "nigger," "spook," "spade," "Uncle Tom," "monkey," and others. When those words were found, the emails containing the words would be revealed and EED would then be able to provide us with an accurate account of how many times each word was used and by whom.
I had no doubt that the email search would uncover damaging and irrefutable evidence of the racial animus against blacks dominating the policies and practices of these agencies.
It was July 2002, and the day had finally come for us to receive the results of our email search. At about 10 am, I called our attorneys at SNR. First I tried to reach Richard Primoff who was now handling our case on a day-to-day basis and was largely responsible for conducting e-discovery on our behalf. Unable to reach him, I then tried, without success, to get Marty Gold or Ray Heslin on the phone. No one returned any of my calls. Finally at around 6 pm, I got through to Richard Primoff who I had been in touch with pretty much on a daily basis for much of the past few years.
When I asked Primoff what was found in the email results, he answered, "Not much of anything we could use." He sounded nervous and I could tell from the sound of his voice he was not telling me the truth. I believed that a cover-up was happening with our own law firm.
Shortly after this incident we learned that SNR, without our knowledge, was trying to file a new complaint that would only benefit the defendants. When I asked Heslin what he was doing, he said he was trying to streamline the complaint by dropping our anti-trust, treble damages claim against the defendants. I told him that if those charges were to be dropped, they would be dropped by the court, not us. This incident further affirmed that SNR was not working in the best interests of their clients.
The following week I had to return to New York for a meeting with attorney Ray Heslin concerning the stipulations of our settlement with Clear Channel. As I entered his office, he received a phone call. He turned his back to me so he could talk in private. I happened to glance down on his desk and saw a stack of papers. The paper on top said, Rowe Entertainment vs. The William Morris Agency E-mail Search Results. Lined down the entire first page was the word "nigger" which had been found three hundred forty-nine (349) times in the emails of CAA and The William Morris Agency. Hundreds of other racial slurs like "spade," "spook," "coon" and "monkey" were found as well.
When Heslin finished his phone call, I politely asked him, "What is this?" referring to the papers on his desk. He quickly turned them over and said, "You were not supposed to see that." I then asked, "Why am I not supposed to see it when it is pertaining to my case?" Heslin would not answer. I now knew for a fact that we had been betrayed by Martin Gold and his law firm, SNR.
Smoking Gun Evidence: FAX: OCT-15- 02 14:45 FROM. SNR. NEW YORK
I immediately called Willie Gary's law firm and they were shocked and surprised to learn of the existence of the email report's incriminating evidence supporting our case. His firm contacted SNR for a copy of the report and documented list of racial slurs. SNR faxed the list to Gary's office. Willie Gary now had in his possession smoking gun evidence supporting our case that SNR attorneys were trying to hide from us.
The date and time stamp on the fax read, "OCT-15-02 14:45 FROM. SNR. NEW YORK." Martin Gold never spoke to me about these documents (emails), nor did he ever show them to me. I truly believe that he used these documents to cut a secret deal with the major defendants. During preparation of our reply to their summary judgment motion, I saw a copy of the report once again in its entirety while I was at Willie Gary's office. At that particular time, the report contained pages 1 to 18.
Unfortunately, as it became clear to me some years later in our legal saga, the incriminating evidence obtained from the email discovery, enabled a corrupt Willie Gary to enrich himself as well, while throwing his clients and any chance to prevail against racial injustice in the industry under the bus.
The year 2003 was slowly approaching and the discovery phase of our case was coming to a close. We had enough depositions and so much damaging evidence on the remaining defendants that I thought they would be insane to go any further. But I knew that CAA and The William Morris Agency did not want to tear down the walls of racial segregation in the concert promotion industry and would do almost anything to maintain the status quo so true competition could never take place.
The judge ordered mediation to take place around February of 2003 in an effort to settle the few remaining cases including those involving powerhouses CAA and The William Morris Agency. As expected, the two biggest agencies remained as arrogant and defiant as ever and made no offer to settle.
Before settling with another agency, I explained to its president that in the United States of America, you have the right to choose your business, but you do not have the right to choose the color of the people you do business with.
I was more determined than ever to secure justice and expunge racial discrimination from this industry. I was confident that CAA and The William Morris Agency would fail in their efforts to avoid a jury trial.
Sign This Letter and Walk Away with $20 million
A few weeks later, I was asked to return to New York to meet with Ray Heslin and Christine Lepera. After arriving they said to me, "We want you to sign a letter that we will draft to send to the judge stating that you will accept $20 million to settle the case." I immediately called Willie Gary. I wanted to make sure that any settlement was penalty enough to make CAA and The William Morris Agency end their policies and practices of institutionalized racial discrimination. Gary made it clear to me that what these companies have gotten away with is horrendous and an affront to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Unless they paid a high price, I knew that they would continue business as usual. Gary's response to me was, "Rowe, this is a billion dollar case and we've got the evidence to win. Tell them no and get out of there now!" Thinking that Gary was looking out for our best interests, I followed his advice and immediately left and flew back to Georgia.
After turning down the $20 million offer, Martin Gold and SNR turned up the heat on me. They sent me a letter stating they wanted to be dismissed from the case. The letter also stated that if I objected to their withdrawal, they would undermine our case by telling the court that they did not think our allegations were valid!
When attorneys betray their clients the way I believe Martin Gold and his law firm betrayed us, I feel they should be disbarred and never allowed to practice law again. After obtaining all of the evidence we obtained and having twenty-nine out of thirty-four defendants settle, Martin Gold and his law firm turned against us and walked away. I believe they were well compensated to protect the industry leaders and to deny justice to my race of people.
Marty Gold's and SNR's actions to undermine our case were unconscionable. However, Willie Gary and his law firm had all the evidence and legal skills necessary to effectively respond to defendants' motion for summary judgment aimed at dismissing our case and denying us a jury trial.
Despite Irrefutable Evidence, Judge Tries to Bury Our Case
The law plainly states that there must not be a scintilla of evidence for a defendant to be granted summary judgment. The law also states this is especially true in discrimination cases because evidence is so often buried in testimony.
It was now the middle of March 2003. I was asked by Maria Sperando, a partner in the Willie Gary Law Firm to come to their office in Florida to assist them in compiling the evidence and preparing the opposition to the summary judgment motion. Plaintiff Lee King agreed to join me.
Ms. Sperando said she needed me to compile the evidence and present it to her and the other attorneys. She said that we would only be allowed to view the evidence that was labeled confidential and we were not to view the evidence that was labeled highly confidential. There were some 175 boxes of evidence in a conference room extracted from the files of the defendants waiting for us to review.
First we compiled over 2,000 contracts showing that white concert promoters had a zero to 10% deposit requirement to secure an act for a concert promotion, while black concert promoters were required to pay a 50% deposit to secure an act they wanted to promote. We also pulled hundreds of contracts showing where white concert promoters were given the opportunity to promote black artists, but found none showing where black concert promoters were ever given the opportunity to promote a white artist. We also found stacks of other damaging evidence showing collusion and conspiracy between the agencies and white promoters.
As the days progressed, we compiled some ten boxes of incriminating evidence to be presented to the court to oppose the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
It took the judge almost two years to issue his opinion on the summary judgment motion. Despite alluding to an expected jury trial on numerous occasions throughout the litigation, he dismissed our case against the remaining defendants on January 5, 2005! Now it was up to us to appeal his erroneous, unjust and unbelievable decision.
Victimized Again: This Time by Willie Gary et al
We needed to appeal this judicial travesty of justice. But Willie Gary, who touts himself as "The Giant Killer," wanted no further involvement with our case or us. After pocketing millions from settlements from the smaller defendants, he abandoned us and refused to represent us to the appellate court. But why, we asked ourselves. As we learned more about Willie Gary, we believe we had the answer.
Once attorney Gary had the email summary search results that our New York attorneys tried to hide from us, he understood that they had committed fraud upon the court. He realized the extremely unlawful and unethical behavior they were engaged in and understood he was now in the driver's seat to receive a big payday. He felt he had hit the lottery and could name his price at the expense of his clients and his own race. The question I have is: How much money did The Gary Law Firm get to betray his clients?
During my ongoing saga seeking justice in the courts, I met Marcus Washington, a young black man, with a Master of Music from the University of Miami, who has been fighting against racially discriminatory practices directed at him and other people of color while employed at The William Morris Agency. We stay in close contact and support each other any way we can.
While researching files from my case in the Southern District of New York, Marcus Washington came across documents that substantiated my suspicions about collusion between my New York SNR attorneys and attorneys for CAA and The William Morris Agency. He also turned up copies of documents that made it clear that The Gary Law Firm also betrayed us through a process of misrepresentation and withholding of key evidence.
It wasn't until 2012 that I again saw a copy of the EED report that was filed with the court in 2003 by Gary, but it was missing incriminating pages 1 and 17 which had been faxed by SNR to Gary and which Lee King and I saw during our research into our case files at Gary's law firm in 2003. Willie Gary apparently removed these pages to lessen the impact of the smoking gun evidence supporting our case. Gary also never demanded that the actual incriminating emails be provided by my SNR attorneys or the agencies' Loeb & Loeb and Weil, Gotshal & Manges attorneys to be scrutinized by the judge and entered into the record.
My former attorneys, and those representing CAA and The William Morris Agency, still have the emails upon which the EED report documenting racial slurs is based. However, they have continued to refuse to turn them over to me, the rightful owner, or to my new attorneys.
More Incriminating Evidence Discovered
To add fuel to the fire, Marcus Washington discovered a series of five letters dated October 29, 2002 through December 10, 2002. Letters dated October 29; December 4, and December 10, 2002 sent by William Morris' attorney Helen Gavaris of Loeb & Loeb and letters dated November 5 and November 12, 2002 sent by Weil, Gotshal & Manges attorney Andrea Berner representing CAA to our SNR attorney, Richard Primoff, clearly show that the magistrate judge's protocol for EED email discovery and reporting results was clearly violated which alone represents fraud upon the court. SNR's attorneys and CAA and William Morris' attorneys obviously conspired together in violation of the published protocol and allowed the defendants' attorneys to obtain, research and study the actual emails before the plaintiffs who paid $200,000 for the email search and were supposed to receive the emails first.
The attorneys' corrupted handling of e-discovery and failure to produce any of the emails, alone, would show that our New York lawyers conspired with the defendants' attorneys to undermine our case. Since "fraud upon the Court" was committed in my case and there are no statute of limitations, this means that our case should be reopened and move forward towards a jury trial.
To my chagrin, the federal judge involved in my case has kept stymieing our efforts and placing roadblocks in front of us even when we filed irrefutable evidence of the fraud upon the court committed by my attorneys in collusion with attorneys representing CAA and The William Morris Agency.
How My Fourth Amendment Rights Were Violated and I Ended Up In Jail
With no other recourse, I decided to take whatever decisive action within my ability and limited resources to correct this gross miscarriage of justice. In 2013, I filed a series of commercial liens ranging from $100 million to $500 million against CAA; The William Morris Agency; my former attorneys at SNR including Martin Gold, Raymond Heslin and Richard Primoff; Willie Gary and his law firm and attorneys representing the agencies who are involved in fraud upon the court. The liens were filed for the theft and concealment of my property which were the emails.
It should be noted that in 2010, SNR merged with UK-based law firm Denton Wilde Sapte LLP to form SNR Denton. Then in 2013, SNR Denton merged with another international law firm and a Canada-based law firm forming the law firm Dentons LLP. Martin Gold is Counsel at Dentons. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Dentons now does legal work for Creative Artists Agency.
The federal judge overseeing the case overstepped his authority and ordered U.S. Marshals to arrest me for refusing to comply with his erroneous order to remove the liens against all parties, excluding Willie Gary and his law firm. The judge also denied a motion by attorney Gary to order me to release the liens placed on him and his law firm. After nearly four months, my imprisonment ended only when I released all the liens against everyone except Gary and his firm.
The U.S. Marshals and the local Johns Creek Police Department have been notified by attorneys representing me that a lawsuit is being filed against them for violating my Fourth Amendment rights when they entered my home, terrorized my wife and daughter and arrested me without a warrant -- rights which are guaranteed to all American citizens under the U.S. Constitution.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." Our fight will continue until justice wins out.