LOS ANGELES – Liza Minnelli has launched a legal counterattack on a former assistant who accused her of assault and forcing him into sex, claiming he is conspiring with her estranged husband to destroy her.
The Oscar-winner countersued former chauffeur/bodyguard M'Hammed Soumayah in New York, accusing him of breaching a confidentiality pact he signed in return for his $238,000-a-year job. She demanded at least $250,000 in damages.
Soumayah sued Minnelli Nov. 9 for more than $100 million. In a countersuit filed the same day, Minnelli dismissed her former employee's lawsuit as being part of a campaign to attack her reputation.
Minnelli's husband, David Gest, last year filed a similar suit against her.
Minnelli claimed in her suit that Soumayah had threatened "to do whatever he could to destroy her, including ... helping David Gest," unless he was reinstated.
Soumayah's threat allegedly came in June after Minnelli informed him through her lawyers that she intended to renegotiate his contract, since she had dramatically cut back on the work he performed starting in December 2003.
Both Minnelli and Soumayah agree that he remained on full salary between December last year and June 2004, but Soumayah claims he was wrongfully fired without being given a reason.
Minnelli claimed in her suit that Gest and Soumayah met at least once in New York and that Gest had quoted parts of Soumayah's lawsuit against her in a press release, indicating the two were working together.
"The audacious act of issuing a press release, at a minimum, supports that Mr. Gest and Mr. Soumaya have engaged in collusion," Minnelli's action said.
"Whether actively involved, or as an unwitting dupe, Soumayah is now engaged with Gest's press crusade," the suit added.
Minnelli also claims Soumayah breached her confidentiality contract and stole an item of jewelry.
Soumayah claimed in his suit that the confidentiality agreement was aimed at keeping the alleged abuses against him from coming to light.