The man behind the lawsuits against X-Men director Bryan Singer and others in Hollywood.

Michael Egan came to Hollywood at 14 or 15, a Nebraska kid who had done some professional modelling and was hoping to make it as an actor.

A friend at school invited him to a mansion in the Encino neighbourhood where, according to a lawsuit filed by Egan, he and other teenage boys were plied with drugs and alcohol – and then coerced into having sex with older men.

Egan’s lawsuit, filed in 2000 when he was 17, alleged that three men sexually abused him at the Encino estate starting when he was 15 years old. He and two co-plaintiffs won a judgment against them for US$4.5mil (RM14.5mil).

Now Egan is suing again over sexual abuse he claims occurred at that same time, at that same Encino compound, but against a different group of men.

The men named in the four new suits – X-Men director Bryan Singer and Hollywood executives Garth Ancier, David Neuman and Gary Goddard – all deny Egan’s allegations. The defendants’ attorneys argue that Egan lacks credibility because he did not name their clients in the previous lawsuit.

Legal experts say that Egan’s delay in bringing suit could be a key issue in a case that has made headlines and forced Singer to pull out of the marketing push for his latest film, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which opens in cinemas today.

“He (Egan) apparently knew about this event way back when – and was with it enough to sue people – so the current defendants are going to ask, ‘Well, gee, why didn’t you sue us earlier?’” said Loyola Law School professor Dan Schechter.

Schechter said that the defendants could also argue that because Egan waited so long to sue, evidence that would have exonerated them has been lost, depriving them of the ability to mount a proper defense.

Egan said he was traumatised for years, and that only after he began therapy last year did he decide to sue.

“I’d never healed from any of this,” he said in an interview.

Now 31, Egan is unemployed and remains in therapy, according to his attorney, Jeff Herman. A resident of Las Vegas, Egan sought for years to make it in Hollywood as an actor. He also partnered with an older brother in a company that staged haunted house attractions, but the two had a falling out about a decade ago, court records show.

According to Egan’s recent civil suits, he began modelling in the Midwest when he was in elementary school, later moving to New York. He relocated to the Los Angeles area with his family in the mid-1990s “at the suggestion of his talent manager to further his acting career, and continued to model.”

Egan attended a small private school in the San Fernando Valley, the suits say, where one of his classmates introduced him to an older brother, Chad Shackley, who lived in the Encino mansion that would play a central role in Egan’s allegations.

Shackley shared the home with Marc Collins-Rector, co-founder of a company called Digital Entertainment Network. A third DEN co-founder was Brock Pierce, who joined the company at age 17 following an early career as a child actor, including starring roles in the first two Mighty Ducks films.

DEN was an early attempt to create and stream programming over the Internet, and it attracted outside investments from companies and individuals, including Singer, Neuman, Ancier and Goddard, according to Egan’s complaints.

His suits allege that the Encino estate shared by Collins-Rector and Shackley became notorious for parties that “featured sexual contact between adult males and the many teenage boys who were present.”

Egan claims he was put on the DEN payroll for about US$2,100 (RM6,747) a week “in an attempt to manipulate his compliance with the sexual demands of those adults” who frequented the estate.

Open secret

The allegations have triggered debates at industry lunch spots and studio back lots throughout Hollywood. To some, the party scene described by Egan has long been an open secret.

“The party culture does exist,” said Anne Henry of BizParentz Foundation, a support group for parents whose children work in the entertainment industry, who was not referring specifically to Egan’s allegations. “It is a party culture of older teenage boys.”

Others are sceptical of the lawsuits. Producer Gavin Polone, whose credits include HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, said the lawsuits are “a shakedown from people who want money and publicity.”

“To me this is a persecution of rich gay people, that’s how I see it,” Polone said.

Egan’s first civil suit was filed in July 2000 in Los Angeles Superior Court. The defendants, Collins-Rector, Shackley and Pierce, did not respond to the allegations. In February 2001, a judge awarded US$4.5mil (RM14.5mil) in damages to Egan and his two co-plaintiffs.

By then, the three defendants were no longer in California, and Collins-Rector faced a criminal sex abuse case.

He had been indicted in 2000 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton, New Jersey, on five counts of transporting a minor across state lines for illegal sexual activity.

The case involved a 13-year-old New Jersey boy Collins-Rector had allegedly met over an Internet bulletin board and had flown to Michigan and California for sexual encounters.

In 2002, Collins-Rector, Shackley and Pierce were arrested by local authorities in the Spanish beach city of Marbella, and Collins-Rector was extradited to the US.

Two years later, he was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles with allegedly transporting four boys to California and Arizona for sex, and in June 2004 he resolved both criminal matters in New Jersey federal court by pleading guilty to charges of transporting five boys across state lines to engage in illegal sex.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey said that Collins-Rector was sentenced to time served plus three years of supervised release.

Florida’s sexual offender registry listed the Dominican Republic as his place of residence as of 2008.

Pierce and Shackley did not face criminal charges in the US and were released from a Spanish jail in 2002. Pierce has since returned to the US and is chairman of Playsino, a Santa Monica, California, company that makes casino-style video games for platforms including Facebook.

Pierce reached a confidential settlement with Egan, according to attorney Daniel Cheren, who represented Egan in the 2000 suit. Pierce declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

Shackley and Collins-Rector never paid the judgments against them, Cheren said. Neither could be reached for comment.

After DEN’s collapse, Egan moved to Las Vegas and launched a haunted house company in 2002 with his brother Jason, according to a 2006 lawsuit filed by Michael in Nevada district court.

The brothers created a successful Fright Dome attraction at the Circus Circus hotel and casino, but Michael Egan alleged in a 2006 lawsuit that his brother took over his interest in the company and declined to share profits.

One of Michael Egan’s attorneys in the matter, Scott Cantor, said that his client initially came off as a “very intelligent, gregarious individual,” but “became suspicious” of his counsel, accusing the legal team of not looking out for his interests.

The case was dismissed in 2008. Jason Egan did not respond to requests for comment. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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