Accused of Public Lewdness, Lawyer Sues Accuser
Steve Hammond did what any red-blooded American lawyer would do when shamed in public -- he sued.
After all, he didn't start the fight. His health club did. The Wall Street health club terminated his membership after a report that he had masturbated in the steam room. Hammond lost his job, his reputation, and lots of sleep. Then he did what any shamed American would do -- he moved to another country.
A former partner at Hughes, Hubbard, and Reed, Hammond filed a $10 million defamation suit against Equinox. He says the gym hyper-sexualized its environment in advertising, and that emboldened a gym employee to accuse him falsely of lewd conduct.
In 2016-2017 ads, Equinox used ads featuring erotic images that included five disrobing people entwined on a bed. The lawsuit says they were "engaging in what could only be described as an orgy." Then Michael Alexander, also a named defendant in the case, said Hammond masturbated in front of him. Hammond was charged with public lewdness, but the case was dismissed. His lawyer Neal Brickman said prosecutors dropped the case because of "credibility issues." According to the lawsuit, Alexander "maliciously fabricated" the claim to ward off his own termination.
"The idea is that patently unbelievable allegations would be believed because they were consistent with the image that Equinox portrayed of itself," Brickman said. "The false allegations could then be used as leverage against both Equinox and Mr. Hammond to obtain a monetary settlement."
Alexander, for his part, sued Equinox for wrongful termination. He said his supervisors discouraged him from reporting the incident to police, then fired him for talking to the media about it. The former gym worker also sued Hammond for sexual assault and battery. Equinox denies all the allegations, saying it is really a dispute between Hammond and Alexander.
Meanwhile, the former BigLaw attorney is in Portugal working as an arbitrator.
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