LA Judge Tosses Businessman's Claims Against Bill Clinton

LOS ANGELES -- Allegations that former President Bill Clinton and an associate interfered with a man's dealings with a Japanese entrepreneur and cost the plaintiff millions of dollars were thrown out Thursday by a Los Angeles judge.

Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz ruled that Peter F. Paul waited too long to bring his current claims against Clinton and the ex-president's former business associate, James Levin.

If the alleged wrongdoing by the defendants ended by January 2001, as Paul claimed, he  had until January 2003 to bring his suit but did not do so until that October, their lawyers argued.

In his ruling, Munoz also noted that Paul initially alleged Clinton used fraud to induce him to spend $1.9 million to underwrite a Hollywood fundraiser for former first lady Hillary Clinton's first run for the Senate in 2000.

However, in an amended complaint filed in August, Paul changed the focus of the lawsuit to claim the nation's former chief executive, with help from Levin, interfered with Paul's dealings with Japanese entrepreneur Tendo Oto, leading to the eventual collapse of Stan Lee Media, which the plaintiff co-founded with comic book writer Stan Lee.

The revised complaint alleged intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional interference with performance by contract by Clinton and Levin, and civil conspiracy by Clinton.

"In short, (Paul) about eight years after the events has substantially altered his theory of liability against defendant Clinton," Munoz said.

Paul's lawyer, D. Collette Wilson, maintained Paul's former attorneys did not learn of the alleged interference by Clinton and Levin until sometime in 2002 or 2003, despite a court document submitted by his former legal team that appeared to show he knew about it in 2000.

Wilson said the document had a drafting error.

Wilson also argued the statute of limitations in the case should have been extended for two years because Paul was incarcerated from August 2001 to January 2005. Part of his time in custody was in Brazil, where he had gone after the collapse of Stan Lee Media amid allegations he and a corporate officer had illegally tried to support the stock's price.

Munoz did not accept the explanation.

"Whatever appeal that argument might seem to have, it was plaintiff who voluntarily became a fugitive from justice," Munoz wrote.  

Wilson said she was disappointed that the case against Clinton and Levin cannot go forward, especially considering the decision was based in part on the drafting error in the court document.

Clinton lawyer Jan B. Norman declined to comment on the ruling.

Hillary Clinton was dismissed earlier as a defendant in the case.

Munoz did allow the suit to go forward against Gary Smith, who produced the Hillary Clinton Hollywood fundraiser. Paul alleges fraud by Smith.

The trial is scheduled July 14.

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