I mean, who wouldn’t? Given the chance, most of us would. Party with the big fish. Party like it’s 1999. I’m running out of party references here, but when it comes to Charlie Sheen, there is no running out of material. Charlie was in the news this week, and it’s never a good reason. But this week’s story is an interesting legal issue, so I figured I’d take a swig of Charlie’s famous Tiger Juice and try to explain NDAs.
A NDA is a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Usually we lawyers like to have a NDA at the end of a lawsuit, so as to keep the outcome confidential. Sometimes we have NDAs at the start of a deal, where we make it clear that what we are about to show the other side is so earthshakingly revolutionary, that we need a NDA to keep the other side from revealing it to the world. That is sort of what Charlie had in mind when he had his former fiancée, Brett Rossi, over for a visit.
The story is unclear about how the two of them hooked up in the first place, but Rossi tells this tale: She was escorted through the garage by Charlie’s security staff, her cell phone was taken and she was required to produce two forms of identification. She then had to sign a NDA. This NDA said that anything that occurred behind closed doors at Sheen’s house that should cause a “future disagreement” would be handled privately, by an arbitrator. So it’s clear Charlie had something a bit perverse in mind from the git-go. Apparently the intrigue of Charlie Sheen overcame any modicum of common sense, so Rossi, well endowed in some respects but missing some brain power, signed the NDA.
Charlie then paid Rossi $10,000 for a night of sex. They ended up dating, eventually getting engaged, before the relationship went up in flames. Rossi claimed that Charlie had failed to disclose his HIV, or that he was abusive, to Ms. Rossi. Rossi went after the money when the relationship was over and attempted to sue, but Charlie’s lawyers pulled out the NDA and have asked a judge to rule that Rossi is limited to an arbitrator’s ruling instead of a jury trial.
The judge has taken the case under advisement, but if said judge reads my column, here’s my two cents. A NDA should not be against public policy, thus I feel that when one attempts to use a NDA to violate a law, the NDA is ineffective. Charlie has at least three laws he’s broken, if you believe Rossi. Strike One – he’s engaged in prostitution. Prostitution isn’t only about the hooker, which Rossi apparently admits to being. But she’s an expensive one. The “john” can get charged too, and in this case, that should void the NDA.
Next is HIV disclosure. While Charlie’s case is pending in California, back here on the sane side of the country (but we just voted overwhelmingly for Trump, so there is some question about that) the failure to advise of HIV in a sexual relationship is the crime of reckless conduct. Strike Two.
Finally, Charlie is abusive during sex, again per Ms. Rossi. You can’t go around hitting people non-consensually. So unless Rossi signed up to get smacked around, that NDA should be voided on that ground. Strike Three.
Older readers will get the reference, but the younger crowd won’t.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns..