Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Paris Hilton hit with $10M slander suit after confrontation with actress

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Paris Hilton is being sued for $10 million by a woman who claims the socialite fed made-up tales of jealous and criminal behavior about her to the press.

"For motives which are not yet entirely clear, defendant Paris Hilton and others recently caused a number of vicious lies about Ms. [Zeta] Graff, a professional model, actress and film producer, to be published in the New York Post," says Graff's slander and libel lawsuit.

Attorneys for both sides met briefly in a Santa Monica courtroom this morning. Hilton's attorneys say they expect to respond to Graff's amended complaint in the next two weeks, but are still investigating the incident.

The judge set the next court hearing for January.

Graff, who had a small role as a princess in the 1997 film "The Fifth Element," claims Hilton conspired with her spokesperson to spread a false story about their June 30 run-in at London nightclub Kabaret.

The article that ran in gossip columnist Richard Johnson's Page Six section on July 2 said Graff was seen attacking Hilton on Kabaret's dance floor in a jealous rage over a man.

At the time, hotel heiress Paris Hilton, 24, was engaged to Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis, 22. Latsis, according to reports, dated Graff for two years before hooking up with Hilton and having a "Z" tattoo removed from his wrist.

When Graff saw Hilton and her ex dancing to Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," the Post said, she went "berserk," and appeared to lose her mind, just as the song's heroine Lola does over the loss of a lover.

The article goes on to report that Graff tried to snatch a $4 million diamond necklace off Hilton's neck, and had to be physically restrained by security guards before she was booted out of the club.

An unnamed source is quoted as saying she witnessed Graff screaming and trying to strangle Hilton. The source went on to say that Graff, who is reportedly in her mid-30s, was "a woman who is older and losing her looks, and she's alone. She's very unhappy."

A Hilton "spokesperson" is quoted as telling Page Six that "Paris and Paris just want to be left alone. This woman keeps turning up wherever they go, almost like a stalker." Hilton is quoted telling Page Six that she would not press charges, and just wants Graff "to go away."

According to Graff, that's not quite how it happened the night she ran into her ex's new girlfriend.

Graff says that it was Hilton who tapped her on the shoulder and whispered in her ear, "You're a f---ing bitch. I'm going to destroy you," according to the model/actress/producer's complaint.

Graff alleges that she asked Hilton what she was talking about, but Hilton did not respond, instead sauntering over to a promoter at Kabaret to demand that Graff be removed from the club.

The suit makes certain to point out that it was Hilton who left first.

"[T]he promoter denied Hilton's request, which prompted Hilton and her friends to leave shortly thereafter, while [Graff] and her friends stayed for another hour or so," Graff's complaint reads.

Hilton's accusations that the actress attacked her and tried to rip the jewels from her neck, Graff says, are not supported "by even a scintilla of truth."

"Ms. Hilton, her spokesman, and others acting on her behalf concocted a baseless story about Ms. Graff and ... fed it to the gossip columnists at the New York Post for immediate publication, and then watched as media outlets picked up and republished the malicious falsehoods and outright fabrications to millions of people around the world," the suit says.

British media outlets The Sunday Mail and The People ran brief stories about the alleged catfight, but then later published formal apologies to Graff, announcing that the incident never occurred, and that they had agreed to pay Graff damages.

Page Six's Richard Johnson declined to comment on the matter, citing threats of a lawsuit by Graff's camp, but he stood by his column's veracity. The Post has not published an apology.

Graff wants Hilton to pay for the alleged mudslinging, and is asking for upwards of $10 million, as her "reputation and good name, as well as her present and future earning potential, have been irreparably harmed throughout Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere around the world," her complaint says.

Graff's attorney, Paul Berra, declined to comment.

Hilton's attorneys Ann Loeb and Larry Stein also declined to discuss the case, but mentioned that Graff's original suit filed in July also alleged negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but those two causes of action were dropped from the amended Oct. 13 complaint.

In a fitting postscript to the jealous love triangle that spurred a lawsuit, Paris and Paris have also dropped one another.

Earlier this month, the Post reported that Hilton phoned Latsis to break off their five-month engagement, while her new beau Stavros Niarchos, also a Greek shipping heir, was on the line listening.

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