Compounding what is already an embarrassment to ABC and The Walt Disney Co., a network source confirmed last week that for four months in 2003 the company made payments to the Emmy Award-winning makeup artist who recently charged that rapper Snoop Dogg and his entourage raped her backstage and used illegal drugs at the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show.
The source characterized the payments as a “bridge loan” to Kylie Bell, who filed a civil suit Jan. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court against numerous parties allegedly involved in the matter, including Disney. It was not a payoff, the source said, but rather relief for medical expenses and Ms. Bell’s reported inability to work.
The payments, which one source said constituted “a few thousand [dollars] a month,” were apparently made from about May through August 2003. The next month Snoop Dogg, born Calvin Broadus, began making payments to Ms. Bell himself, according to her suit.
One thing that makes the case unusual is that Ms. Bell was not an ABC employee, and she claims the network issued the payments through a third-party entity called K.C. Investments Inc.
“We gave her a bridge loan to help her pay her utilities,” the ABC source said. “After four months, and after seeking counsel of a mental health expert, we stopped the bridge loans in order to help her to reclaim her life.”
The revelation of the payments is unwelcome news for Disney, which legal experts said could have a difficult time disproving its liability if Ms. Bell’s charges against Mr. Broadus are valid. A verdict in Ms. Bell’s favor could cost Disney millions and tarnish its image.
Ms. Bell has sued for $25 million in a lawsuit that also includes as defendants “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC and owner The Walt Disney Co., alleging failure to provide a safe working environment. No criminal charges have been filed.
Legal experts said the payments to Ms. Bell likely were accompanied by a waiver stating the funds did not constitute an admission of guilt. At the same time, sources said, payments can imply that Ms. Bell’s complaints have legitimacy.
“Of course [the payments are] unusual,” said Herbert Dodell, a criminal and civil attorney who previously worked for Warner Bros. “The perception is if you pay, you’re admitting you did something wrong. It’s easy to call it a loan, but why would you give her a loan? Especially if she’s an outside contractor? Because you feel bad for her?”
A veteran Los Angeles-area entertainment attorney, who asked not to be identified due to representing Disney on another case, also characterized the payment as “highly unusual,” but added the key is the alleged drug and alcohol use.
“The issue is going to turn on the reasonable foreseeability of this type of incident occurring,” he said. “ABC’s liability will be directly linked to if they knew about marijuana and alcohol use and sat by and did nothing.”
Mr. Dodell agreed. “It’s no different than if you drink in somebody’s house and you get drunk to the gills and they send you home to drive,” he said. “If they knew what was going on in the back, they shouldn’t let the guy occupy the premises.”
The terms of the payments to Ms. Bell, including any schedule for repayment, were not available.
Representatives of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” have referred all inquiries to the ABC Network. In a statement, ABC said, “There is simply no merit to the charges against the company.” Beyond its initial statement, ABC did not return calls for comment.
Ms. Bell, who won an Emmy for makeup work on “Six Feet Under” in 2002, was contracted by Mr. Broadus in January 2003 to apply his makeup during the first week of “Kimmel,” when he co-hosted. Ms. Bell in her suit said Mr. Broadus’ dressing room was stocked with “large quantities” of marijuana and champagne. She said she saw Mr. Broadus snort cocaine and that “Kimmel” production assistants also witnessed the drug use.
After Mr. Broadus’ final night on the show, Ms. Bell claims, she was given drug-spiked champagne and sexually assaulted by Mr. Broadus and four members of his entourage in his dressing room. Mr. Broadus has denied through a spokesperson that he assaulted Ms. Bell. In December, he filed a pre-emptive lawsuit claiming he is the target of an extortion attempt by an unnamed woman.
“Ms. Bell’s accusations are inconsistent with the statement she gave to the police in which she indicated that Snoop Dogg did not harm her in any way,” said Mr. Broadus’ publicist, Meredith O’Sullivan. “Snoop Dogg will prove in a court of law that Ms. Bell is lying. When that happens, Snoop looks forward to Ms. Bell and her lawyer apologizing to him and his wife and children with the same amount of publicity that Ms. Bell and her lawyer now seek.”
Both suits indicate the parties were actively negotiating a settlement from 2003 until last month. ABC renewed “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for another year last October-after the network was already aware of the alleged incident but before the charges became public.
Since its inception, the show has fostered a reputation for partying. The studio audience was served alcohol on the series’ premiere night. The show’s green room, where guests and friends gather, has been dubbed “Club Kimmel.” It features a lounge atmosphere and has an open bar. The show’s boisterous reputation is so well known, an episode of HBO’s “Entourage” featured two characters having sex in one of the “Kimmel” dressing rooms.
All of this, Ms. Bell’s attorney Perry Wander argued, makes the case tougher for ABC.
“They’re using sex and drugs and alcohol to bring in that younger demographic,” Mr. Wander said. “People are not acting the way they would during normal business hours. It was like a fraternity party where a girl gets raped. Everybody acted consistent with the image they were trying to project on television.”
As to whether ABC and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” could have foreseen such an incident, Mr. Wander was incredulous, and made reference to Mr. Broadus’ past. “An ex-con, former crackhead, murder defendant and pornographer who advocates beating women [in his lyrics] was hired by Disney to co-host the show,” Mr. Wander said. “How is it not foreseeable that this is a dangerous environment when you add alcohol and marijuana? They protected the talent because he’s their paycheck.”