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Live Nation says Astroworld documentary could “taint the jury pool”

By | Published on Thursday 14 April 2022


Lawyers for Live Nation have raised concerns over a documentary about last year’s Astroworld tragedy – which premiered at two cinemas in Texas last night – saying that the film could “taint the jury pool” if any of the hundreds of lawsuits filed over the Houston festival reach trial.

A stack of litigation has been filed in relation to the events at last November’s Astroworld festival, where ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a deadly crowd surge occurred during the headline set of festival founder Travis Scott. That litigation mainly targets Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary – as the promoters of the festival – as well as Scott himself.

In an effort to make it easier to manage the legal action, the hundreds of lawsuits have now been consolidated, with judge Kristen Hawkins overseeing the proceedings. In February, she issued a wide-ranging gagging order restricting what those involved in the litigation can say in public about the legal action, concluding that such restrictions were required to ensure a fair trial should the lawsuits end in court before a jury.

The new documentary about the Astroworld tragedy is called ‘Concert Crush’, and is directed by Charlie Minn, who refers to himself as a “victim-driven” documentary filmmaker.

Of his work, he says: “I am here to give people a ‘voice’ who do not have one anymore. I try to speak for them. It’s unbelievable the injustice in our country and in our world. Somebody has to say something. I am here to inform, educate and raise awareness to the highest level for change, and boy do we need change”.

The film – which has screenings scheduled in various cinemas around Texas later this month following its premiere yesterday – is co-produced by lawyer Ricardo Ramos, who is working on a number of the Astroworld lawsuits. And other lawyers working on Astroworld cases are seemingly interviewed in the film.

In a recent letter to Hawkins, a legal rep for Live Nation states: “We write to bring the court’s attention to the upcoming release of a film concerning the Astroworld concert titled ‘Concert Crush’. The film has received recent publicity in the Houston area”.

“The film’s website indicates it was co-produced by attorney Ricardo Ramos, who represents plaintiffs in 20 cases pending in this multidistrict litigation”, it goes on. “The film includes interviews with Ramos, two members of the plaintiffs’ executive committee – Brent Coon and Tony Buzbee – and as many as eight Astroworld plaintiffs”.

Live Nation’s letter then argues: “The involvement of plaintiffs’ lawyers in the film, and the publicity the filmmakers and producers are trying to generate for it, raise significant issues about efforts to taint the jury pool”.

Referencing the aforementioned gagging order and motions responding to it from parties involved in the litigation and local media, the letter concludes: “Although the parties and intervenor ABC News have agreed they will benefit from additional time to discuss the pending motions regarding the court’s 15 Feb publicity order before the court hears argument on them, we believe it is important for the court to be aware of the ‘Concert Crush’ film and the involvement of some plaintiffs’ lawyers in its content, production, and promotion”.

Ramos is yet to respond to Live Nation’s letter to the court, but another lawyer who is working on Astroworld cases, Robert C Hillard, who did not participate in the documentary, was critical of the live giant’s decision to formally complain about the film. And also that it made that complaint via a letter rather than a formal court filing.

According to Rolling Stone, he criticised the Live Nation lawyers’ “almost giddy attempts to use the upcoming ‘Concert Crush’ film to asperse as many of the Astroworld litigation multidistrict litigation plaintiffs’ bar as they can … perhaps hoping to distract this court from their own clients’ criminally negligent conduct in the deaths and injuries of so many”.

As for how Live Nation’s complaint was delivered, he criticised how the live firm’s legal team resorted “to such a transparent ‘tattle-tale’ letter, rather than, as required by the rules, the filing of a motion, which would require them to set out some type of requested relief”.

It’s not the first time parties involved in the Astroworld litigation have raised concerns about the impact public projects pursued by the other side could have on any future court hearings before a jury. Though previously it was representatives for the plaintiffs who criticised Scott.

That related to the new philanthropic project launched by the rapper in March called Project HEAL – which in part aims to improve safety at live events in the wake of the Astroworld tragedy. Launching the initiative, Scott said: “My team and I created Project HEAL to take much needed action towards supporting real solutions that make all events the safest spaces they can possibly be”.

But legal reps for some of the Astroworld plaintiffs said that it was inappropriate for Scott to be publicly debating event safety issues as the litigation in relation to his own event continues to go through the motions. And among those reps was Hillard, who told Hawkins that he felt the launch of Project HEAL “affected and dented” the power of the gagging order the judge had issued.

Though Scott’s attorneys hit back at that claim. Charitable projects had “been a constant” in the rapper’s life, they argued, and “to suggest somehow that speaking about those charitable initiatives … runs afoul of the publicity order … is certainly not something that would withstand scrutiny”.

With so much media interest in the Astroworld cases – and Scott seemingly planning to get back to performing and promoting his music in the months ahead – it seems likely plenty more concerns will be raised by both sides in relation to what kind of public statements could break Hawkins’ order.