By Joe Beck - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tareq Salahi's $50 million lawsuit against a rock band guitarist and two affiliated entertainment companies ended in defeat in Warren County Circuit Court Monday under a ruling from Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp.
Hupp agreed with arguments by the defendants' attorneys that Tareq Salahi's claims would be more appropriately addressed in divorce proceedings with his estranged wife, Michaele Salahi, than in a suit involving accusations of unfair and devious business practices.
"I keep coming back to the same place in my thoughts, and that is the partnership these defendants are alleged to have interfered with is a marital partnership," Hupp said after the attorneys had concluded their arguments.
The defendants in the case were Neal Schon of the rock band Journey and two California-based companies, DD Entertainment LLC and Nomata, Inc.
Salahi, who appeared in court with attorney Charles B. Roberts of Occoquan, said after the two-hour hearing that he intended to appeal the decision.
Salahi and Roberts did not mention losing the case in statements they issued a few hours later. Instead, both focused on their plans to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, which they hope will order a jury trial.
"Today's decision to proceed to the Virginia Supreme Court is another step toward justice as a result of Neal Schon's and Journey's selfish and outrageous behavior and for their inexcusable acts which caused me extreme emotional distress," Tareq Salahi said.
In the hearing, Roberts accused Schon and the two entertainment companies of scheming to break up his marriage to Michaele Salahi and engaging in "outrageous, intolerable conduct" afterward as a way of promoting their business interests.
It was the second time Hupp has ruled against Tareq Salahi's claims in the lawsuit. The suit was on the brink of extinction after his last ruling in April, but the judge gave Tareq Salahi a chance to revive it with an amended complaint that was the basis of Monday's hearing.
Michaele Salahi left the couple's home at 4410 Scenic Overlook Drive in early September and within a few days began touring with Schon and Journey. They have remained together since. She and Tareq Salahi are also suing each other for divorce. She has accused him of making threats against her and of cruelty and constructive desertion.
Michaele Salahi also has an $850,000 countersuit pending against Tareq Salahi in which she accuses him of defaming her character by calling her a "groupie slut" during a TV interview in September.
Hupp said the central question in Tareq Salahi's lawsuit was whether "a husband and wife can become so closely involved in a business relationship that the relationship becomes something separate from the marriage."
Court documents and statements from the opposing attorneys made clear that the Salahis worked together in money-making ventures involving show business publicity, entertainment contracts and their now-defunct Oasis Winery. They first drew national media attention by slipping into a White House state dinner in November 2009 without an invitation.
Their exploits since then have included an appearance on the Bravo cable channel's "The Real Housewives of D.C.", a show that last aired in April 2011.
Roberts said Tareq Salahi was entitled to the same protections against predatory, unfair business practices by competitors that other Virginia business people receive.
"We cannot throw out all the business protections and common law protections for married people simply because they're married," Roberts said.
Bruce Blanchard, a Fairfax attorney who represented Schon and Journey at the hearing, and William B. Porter, who represented the entertainment firms, scorned Roberts's claims as unreasonable.
Porter, referring to court documents in which Roberts refers to Michaele Salahi as "a valuable entertainment commodity" scoffed at Roberts' and Tareq Salahi's reasoning.
"The problem in their posture, judge, is it's all based on the fact that Ms. Salahi has no free will," Porter said, adding "this woman is not a piece of property, she's not a book, she's not an entertainment asset. She's a person."
"She has the right to do what she wants."
After Hupp had ruled, Blanchard pleaded with him to "redact" from the court files a photo of a penis that Tareq Salahi said Schon had emailed to him as a taunt.
Earlier in the hearing, Blanchard had indignantly denounced Salahi and Roberts for inserting the photo into the public record.
"It's a dirty picture and didn't need to be submitted," as evidence, Blanchard said. He also scoffed at what he called Roberts' "feigned reluctance" to use the photo.
Hupp said he would allow the photo to remain intact and uncensored.
"It's here," Hupp said.