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The former producing partner of action movie star Steven Seagal has sued the law firm of Loeb & Loeb for $25 million, alleging malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. Julius R. Nasso, who last fall pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court to trying to extort money from Seagal, is claiming Loeb & Loeb represented him and the actor both as partners in Seagal-Nasso Productions. The firm then allegedly violated its obligations to Nasso by taking Seagal’s side in a subsequent dispute and representing Seagal in the grand jury investigation that led to Nasso’s indictment. In his suit filed in Staten Island Supreme Court, Nasso alleges, “[Loeb & Loeb]‘s actions were based on the calculation that Seagal, as a ‘movie star,’ would be a far more profitable client than Nasso.” In a statement, the law firm called Nasso’s action “a frivolous lawsuit filed by a convicted felon.” One of the leading law firms in the entertainment industry, Loeb & Loeb has 178 lawyers almost equally divided between Los Angeles and New York, as well as a small office in Nashville, Tenn. Nasso collaborated with Seagal on many of the actor’s biggest hits, including “Out for Justice,” “Hard to Kill” and “Under Siege.” Nasso claims in his suit he hired Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Craig Emanuel to form and represent the Seagal-Nasso company, which was founded in 1990. Emanuel’s firm, Tenenbaum, Emanuel & Fleer, merged with Loeb & Loeb in 1998. Emanuel is presently the co-head of the firm’s entertainment practice. In 2000, Seagal ended the partnership and declined to appear in four Seagal-Nasso films. Nasso sued Seagal in Eastern District federal court in 2002, alleging that the actor breached agreements to appear in the four films. Nasso claims he lost between $21 and $39 million in anticipated profits as a result of Seagal’s pulling out of the four movies. Before that, however, Nasso apparently resorted to other means to resolve the dispute. He pleaded guilty in August 2003 to having a deal with Anthony Ciccone, a reputed captain in the Gambino crime family, whereby the latter would threaten Seagal with bodily harm if the actor did not pay about $3 million to resolve his dispute with Nasso. Nasso, whose plea agreement provides for a 366-day sentence and a $75,000 fine, is awaiting sentencing. Ciccone was convicted of the plot last March and is also awaiting sentencing. Loeb & Loeb partner Martin Pollner represented Seagal during the course of his involvement in the cases against Messrs. Ciccone and Nasso. In his suit against the firm, Nasso claims Loeb & Loeb knew from its earlier representations of Seagal-Nasso that Seagal was mischaracterizing their business relationship before the grand jury that ultimately indicted Nasso. Robert Hantman, Nasso’s lawyer, said that Loeb & Loeb should have recused itself from representing Seagal in his role as a witness. “Seagal could have gone to anyone,” said Hantman, of Hantman & Associates. “He didn’t have to go to the lawyers that represented his partner and him.” In its statement, Loeb & Loeb noted that Nasso had made similar claims during the criminal trial, and that Eastern District U.S. Attorney Roslyn Mauskopf had urged Judge Frederick Block to reject them. “Loeb & Loeb revealed no privileged information, and was minimally involved in the representation of a client whose testimony was not the only supporting evidence in the indictment,” Mauskopf wrote in a June 24, 2003, letter to Judge Block. Nasso is also accusing Loeb & Loeb of cooperating with Seagal in his defense against Nasso’s civil suit. Schulte Roth & Zabel is representing Seagal in that action, but Nasso is charging that Loeb & Loeb has failed to provide documents that would support his claims that Seagal was legally bound to appear in the four films. According to Nasso, Emanuel performed a large portion of the legal work involved in getting the four productions off the ground, and would have known of Seagal’s obligation to participate.

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