CITY NEWS SERVICE
Testifying Monday in trial of her sexual harassment lawsuit against producer Jon Peters, a former personal assistant to the filmmaker said she never intended to give up her rights to sue when she signed a mutual release of claims in January 2006.
In occasionally emotional testimony during cross-examination by defense attorney John Gatti, Shelly Morita said she felt pressured into signing the document because she believed it was the only way she could receive a $25,000 Christmas bonus.
“They verbally promised me they’d give me that Christmas bonus,” Morita told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury. “They were holding it hostage until I signed this.”
Morita, a 44-year-old single mom whose daughter is now 8 years old, said Peters told her he wanted to help her financially.
“Jon said, ‘I’m going to pay off your debt,’ ” Morita said, referring to her credit card obligations.
Morita said Peters made the commitment to her on Christmas Day 2005, a day after he had told her she was fired. She testified she kept working for him for another two months before she quit in February 2006.
She said Peters touched her chest inappropriately 30 to 50 times during her employment. She also said he rubbed her leg and hugged her on the Warner Bros. lot.
Asked by Gatti to explain some apparent inconsistencies in her trial and deposition testimony, Morita replied, “I have to relive all of this stuff again.”
Gatti then asked Morita, “Have you thought about what Mr. Peters goes through listening to all this?” Morita answered, “He wasn’t here the last two days.”
On Friday, Morita testified that Peters crawled into bed with her in her hotel room during the making of “Superman Returns” in Australia in July 2005.
Morita said she tried to get another job to get away from Peters, but was unsuccessful in all attempts, including an application to be Christina Aguilera’s personal assistant.
Peters’ attorneys were assisted in picking the jury of nine women and three men by Richard Gabriel, the same consultant who helped the defense choose the panel that acquitted Florida mother Casey Anthony in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Kaylee.
Gatti said he has used Gabriel’s services several times in the past, and his success in the Anthony case was not a factor in having his assistance in defending Peters.