A woman who sued Marilyn Manson for sexual assault says in a new legal filing that the allegations were untrue, claiming she had been “manipulated” by the rocker’s ex-girlfriend, Evan Rachel Wood.
With Manson currently suing Wood for allegedly orchestrating an “organized attack” of false rape accusations, the singer’s lawyers filed a bombshell statement Thursday (Feb. 23) from Ashley Morgan Smithline — one of several women who has accused Manson of sexual abuse over the past two years.
In it, Smithline claims that she had been “manipulated by Ms. Wood” and others, and eventually had agreed to “spread publicly false accusations of abuse” against Manson (real name Brian Warner).
“I succumbed to pressure from Evan Rachel Wood and her associates to make accusations of rape and assault against Mr. Warner that were not true,” Smithline wrote in the sworn statement. “Eventually, I started to believe that what I was repeatedly told happened to Ms. Wood and [others] also happened to me.”
In a statement to Billboard, a spokesperson for Wood strongly denied Smithline’s accusations: “Evan never pressured or manipulated Ashley. It was Ashley who first contacted Evan about the abuse she had suffered. It’s unfortunate that the harassment and threats Ashley received after filing her federal lawsuit appear to have pressured her to change her testimony.”
The filing of Smithline’s declaration was first reported Thursday by the New York Post.
Smithline’s allegations are a major revelation in Manson’s two-year legal saga, in which at least five women have accused him of serious sexual wrongdoing. After Wood posted her allegations to Instagram in February 2021, lawsuits quickly followed from Smithline, Manson’s former assistant Ashley Walters, Game of Thrones actress Esme Bianco and a Jane Doe accuser.
Smithline’s case was dismissed last month after she fired her lawyer and stopped participating in the case.
Manson has denied all of the allegations and filed his own defamation lawsuit in March 2022 claiming that Wood and another woman, Illma Gore, had “secretly recruited, coordinated, and pressured prospective accusers to emerge simultaneously” with false accusations against him.
In her declaration on Thursday, Smithline told a story that supported Manson’s allegations against Wood. She said she had been initially contacted by other alleged victims and, when she denied that such abuse had happened to her, was repeatedly told that she might just not remember it.
“While at first I knew Mr. Warner did not do these things to me, I eventually I began to question whether he actually did,” Smithline wrote. “On numerous occasions, I was told … that I may just be misremembering what happened, repressing my memories of what happened, or that my memories had not yet surfaced — which they said happened to people against whom these acts were perpetrated.”
Eventually, Smithline said she agreed to participate. She said Gore drafted an accusation statement for her and posted it to her account for her, and that she was then connected with Jay Ellwanger, the same lawyer who represented Bianco.
“Leading up to the filing of the complaint, I felt pressured by Mr. Ellwanger to go on a press tour, which included an interview on The View and an interview and photoshoot with People magazine,” Smithline wrote. “I was very uncomfortable doing this press but felt pressured to do it.”
Smithline also noted that she had “never received any money” from Manson as part of any settlement agreement to stop pursuing her case and that she did not intend to refile her case against him.
“Looking back, I feel I was manipulated by Ms. Wood, Ms. Gore, Ms. Bianco, and Mr. Ellwanger to spread publicly false accusations of abuse against Mr. Warner,” Smithline wrote.
In a statement to Billboard, Ellwanger said that his response to Smithline’s allegations was “constrained by ethical obligations regarding client confidentiality” to his former client. “But what I can say is that the specific allegations regarding my representation of Ms. Smithline are categorically and verifiably false.”
The new revelations come as Wood’s attorneys are seeking to dismiss Manson’s case by citing California’s so-called anti-SLAPP statute — a law that aims to make it easier to dismiss cases that threaten free speech. Wood’s lawyers say Manson’s case is exactly that: an effort to punish Wood after she chose to speak publicly about years of abuse.
“For years, plaintiff Brian Warner raped and tortured defendant Evan Rachel Wood and threatened retaliation if she told anyone about it,” her attorneys wrote. “Warner has now made good on those threats by filing the present lawsuit.”
Manson’s attorneys want to cite Thursday’s new statements from Smithline as a reason to deny the anti-SLAPP motion since such motions require courts to assess the validity of a case’s allegations. In asking the court to heed the filing, they wrote: “This newly obtained evidence is critical to Warner’s opposition to the anti-SLAPP motions, in which defendants argue that there is no ‘admissible evidence substantiating his allegations.’”
In a statement to Billboard, Manson’s attorney, Howard King, said Smithline’s declaration “proves” that the lawsuit’s core accusations are true. “As we have always said, the coordinated campaign of #MeToo lies against Brian Warner is going to go down as one of the greatest hoaxes of all time,” King said. “Vulnerable women were manipulated by unscrupulous individuals seeking to build their own brands and pursue their own vendettas.”
Read Smithline’s entire declaration here:
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