Exhibit 5: The Vic Mignogna Lawsuit and Me

The Vic Mignogna lawsuit and scandal continues, and I am now a part of it. I didn’t ask to be and I don’t want to be, but lo and behold, there I am.

In previous articles I’ve shared my thoughts on how this lawsuit affects the culture, history, and fandom of Dragon Ball and our global community. There isn’t much more to say on those matters at the moment.

But now that my work on the topic has been added to this lawsuit as Exhibit 5, and mentioned in Vic Mignogna’s deposition—both to be submitted in court—I don’t think it would be right to say nothing about this latest filing.

You can read the complete filing as a PDF.

In this article I’ll give you a brief overview of this filing and my involvement in it.

Then I’ll reveal exclusive inside information that contradicts statements that Vic Mignogna makes in his deposition.

Overview of the Latest Filing

vic mignogna sexual assault allegations file to dismiss title page

On July 9, 2019, FUNimation Productions LLC, Monica Rial, Ronald Toye, and Jamie Marchi filed a “Motion to Determine the Scope of Anti-SLAPP Stay, or Alternatively for Leave to Conduct Discovery regarding the Motion to Dismiss.”

This is legalese for the above Defendants arguing that Vic’s claim that they defamed his reputation and caused monetary loss is groundless, and that Vic’s lawsuit should be dismissed.

The premise of this filing is to argue that their exhibited evidence shows Vic’s reputation was already poor before his grievances occurred. As a reminder, in late January he was fired by FUNimation (SONY) and Rooster Teeth as a freelance voice actor, and then subsequently dropped as a guest from anime conventions.

The Defendants argue that what really brought Vic’s poor behavior to the forefront was his starring role in Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which premiered on January 16, 2019, and broke box office records. This film’s success caused a subsequent social media stir from women coming forward against Vic to claim that he sexually assaulted them. In-turn, this led to the #KickVic movement and a subsequent #VicKicksBack and #IStandWithVic counter-movement.

As I understand it, the Defendants claim that they were not associated with these events, including on social media and in Vic’s business life prior to or during FUNimation and SONY’s internal investigation that determined there was suitable grounds for his dismissal. They only spoke out against him in public afterward. Therefore, they argue Vic’s lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed.

The rest of the filing breaks down the Defendant’s argument, as written by their lawyer, J. Sean Lemoine, who created this filing.

j sean lemoine and ty beard funimation vic mignogna lawyers

J. Sean Lemoine (left) and Ty Beard (right), lawyers for the Defense and Plaintiff

Mr. Lemoine is a lawyer at Wick Phillips, a Dallas-Fort Worth law firm.

One of the areas of law Wick Phillips specializes in is defamation lawsuits, which is what Vic filed against the Defendants.

However, there is a law in Texas related to defamation suits called the Anti-SLAPP, which stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

This law allows Texans to counter somebody’s claim of defamation with a claim of their own that they were exercising their right to freedom of speech. You can read about it here, where it says, “If your motion to dismiss is successful, the court will award you attorneys’ fees, court costs, and possibly punitive damages against the party that filed the lawsuit.”

This filing begins the process of the Anti-SLAPP. So if the Defendants are successful, Vic may be subject to such repercussions.

The filing mentions Dragon Ball several times, but that’s not what the filing is focused on.

The main thrust of the filing is a lengthy deposition between Mr. Lemoine, Vic Mignogna, and Vic’s attorney, Ty Beard. According to Mr. Beard’s website, one of the fields he practices in is defamation and tortious interference. (EDIT: New information came to light in the comments after the publication of this article that shows Ty Beard’s website did not include mention of these two areas of practice until after April 5, 2019, which is after he became Vic’s lawyer and took on the case.) The deposition occurred on June 29, 2019. Its transcription extends from Page 19 to 72.

My Vic Mignogna Article is Exhibit 5

vic mignogna lawsuit funimation exhibit list

Back on February 1, I wrote one of the first articles about Vic Mignogna when news of this scandal was just starting to grow. It’s called Fixing the Staircase: Vic Mignogna’s Sexual Assault Allegations and the Voice Actors Who Speak Out, and I recommend you read it now if you haven’t already.

My article is quoted in this filing on Pages 3, 6, and 74. Mr. Lemoine discusses my article in detail with Vic in the deposition from Pages 52 to 54.

After the deposition, my entire article is printed out and included as Exhibit 5 from Pages 93 to 165.

To find out why my article was included without forewarning or consultation with me, I spoke with Mr. Lemoine.

We spoke off the record, but he did express the sentiment that my article was ‘the most in-depth article’ on the subject written to date.

Mr. Lemoine included my article alongside other articles from Polygon, Gizmodo, and Anime News Network to strengthen his client’s case.

So on the one hand I suppose I should be flattered, as this is the first time anyone has cited my work in a legal filing. On the other hand, it makes me nervous to be included in a case. Especially one as divisive as this.

I did not ask to be included, and I don’t condone or condemn either side of this legal matter, nor my inclusion as an exhibit or talking point in the deposition. In fact, I’m not on a side or a ‘team.’ I’m an independent and centrist journalist. That’s especially true in regards to this legal matter and the division in the Dragon Ball community.

I want nothing to do with this lawsuit, but there isn’t anything I can do about being included in it. I was recording it from the outside, but now I’m on the inside.

Vic’s Deposition on My Article

vic mignogna lawsuit deposition the dao of dragon ball

This filing is 188 pages long, and there’s an enormous amount to discuss. If you go onto YouTube or social media you will see people on each ‘side’ attacking the ‘other side’ with quotes from the deposition in order to strengthen their existing biases and belittle others.

Most of these opinions on YouTube are from people with no professional expertise on the matters. I’m not going to quote their arguments because I feel less informed and more confused after hearing them. I don’t like gossip, it’s not relevant to Dragon Ball, and I respect your intelligence enough to allow you to reach your own conclusions.

Mr. Lemoine and Vic discuss my article from Page 52 to 54. Here is the relevant content transcribed.

Mr. Lemoine (Q): Okay. If you turn to Exhibit 5. Are you familiar with an online blog called The Dao of Dragon Ball?

Vic Mignogna (A): No, sir.

Q: You don’t know if that’s popular with Dragon Ball fans or not?

A: It may be. I don’t know.

Q: Now, were you aware that The Dao of Dragon Ball wrote an article about you?

A: I’m sorry?

Q: Were you aware that The Dao of Dragon Ball wrote an article about you?

A: I–I don’t. This period was very, you know–

Q: Okay. So–

A: I–I don’t know, specifically.

Q: All right. As you sit here today, have you ever read this Exhibit 5?

A: Not that I recall.

Q: So you don’t know what it says —

A: No, sir.

Q: — about you one way or the other?

A: No, sir.

Q: And so you can’t comment on whether or not you blame any of the Defendants for any of the information in it?

A: No, sir.

Q: You don’t even know whether or not the — the article was defamatory?

A: I don’t. I don’t, but I — I would lay odds that it is.

Following this, Mr. Lemoine and Vic go over a few of the specifics in the article.

For example, the numerous allegations of improper behavior made against Vic since 2003, the #MeToo movement, the importance of not silencing victims who speak out, whether it’s “odd” or not for a 56-year-old man to embrace and kiss children at conventions, the origins of the #KickVic hashtag, Vic’s cancelled conventions prior to the publication of my article on February 1, Vic’s inclusion on an anonymous Internet list of celebrities who have allegedly had sexual misconduct with minors called BrokenStaircase (which also includes Vic’s alleged homophobia and anti-Semitism), and whether or not the Defendants had anything to do with these topics.

There’s a reason I typed out the transcript of the above section, and not the rest just mentioned.

It’s because what Vic Mignogna said in his deposition contradicts my own understanding of what occurred.

Vic’s Contradictions

In the above portion of the deposition, Vic says that he does not know of me, my site, or my article that I wrote about him. He says he has never read it and has no idea what it contains.

On the surface this sounds plausible. Vic was going through a difficult period in his life as the scandal erupted, so maybe he cut himself off from the Internet around the time I published my first article on February 1. Even though I sent it to him, perhaps he didn’t read it.

And I suppose he could have never come across my site before, even though I’ve been active since 2007 and have written several newsworthy pieces that Vic’s voice actor colleagues that work on Dragon Ball hold in high regard.

However, his statement doesn’t line up with what I know.

After publishing my article on February 1, a man named Todd Hewey contacted me.

Hewey claims he is one of Vic’s best friends, has known Vic for over 30 years, and has worked with him in the music and television industries. The two of them attended Liberty University together, and they worked on acting productions in Texas, such as the live-action Star Trek Continues, which Vic stars in. And they often see one another and have conversations as friends. He feels that Vic is innocent and his lawsuit justified.

We spoke on the phone and via text on February 22.

During the conversation, Hewey told me that he felt my article was the only one to provide a balanced perspective on Vic, a thorough explanation of the topics of importance, and to touch on so many important issues that needed to be discussed in our society.

As a result, Hewey wanted Vic to speak with me so he could tell his side of the story. And he wanted me to interview Vic for future articles and books on the history of Dragon Ball, especially in regard to this scandal.

I told Hewey that I was open to it, and he said via text message, “I’ll contact Vic and let you know.”

Two days later, on February 24, Hewey wrote, “Hi Derek. I spoke to Vic last night at great length. I told him you were a straight shooter, seeking the truth. He’s going to read your article. He has your phone number and your website. He has also retained the services of a law firm. I pressed hard for him to contact you. I think Vic will contact you if he feels he can add to your research. He has some strong arguments, facts and other info to share. I’ll call him in a week to see if he has moved forward on my suggestion to call you. I really want you to meet him.”

vic mignogna todd hewey derek padula text messages

Two weeks went by, yet I had not heard from Vic, so I followed up on March 8. Hewey said, “I’m back in town Monday. I’ll contact him then.” For clarification, March 8 was a Friday, so he would speak with Vic for a second time about me on that Monday, March 11.

But I did not hear from either of them in the month to follow.

On April 22 I wrote a second article on Vic in regard to his filing of a defamation lawsuit against the Defendants, called Vic Mignogna Fights Back: Sues FUNimation and Monica Rial.

In this article I included a series of direct quotes from Todd Hewey. Prior to publication I gave Hewey another call to make sure that his message in the article would be accurate and clear.

After it was published, Hewey wrote to me, “Excellent article. Good reporting.” And, “Keep up the good work.”

I never heard from Vic prior to the publication of these two articles, nor afterward. Not even a ‘No comment.’

But on July 9, 2019, in Vic’s deposition in the filing by Mr. Lemoine, Vic claims he has never heard of me, my site, or my articles. That’s odd, don’t you think? How could Vic’s statement be accurate given the above history of Vic’s best friend saying that he spoke with Vic about me several times, gave him a link to my article, my phone number, and email?

On July 10, 2019, I contacted Todd Hewey again. I asked Hewey to confirm that he did indeed talk to Vic on February 24, and in subsequent encounters.

Hewey replied, “I have spoken to him and have mentioned you, your article, how I felt it was very needed, and what I spoke to you about. Because he is suing several of these individuals, he may not be able to speak about it until after the case. I’ll ask him about it the next time I talk to him.”

vic mignogna todd hewey derek padula text messages

He added, “At the end of this legal matter, I hope he does speak to you so you have the perspective from his side.” I replied, “Yes, because without his voice it will feel more one-sided. Balance is my goal.” He replied with a thumbs-up emoji.

That brings us to the present moment.

Which story makes more sense to you?

The one where Vic’s best friend repeatedly states in text messages and on the phone he told Vic about my article and my site, gave him my contact info, and suggested he speak with me?

Or the one where Vic denies he has ever heard of me or my articles, even though they were shared with him across social media and forwarded to Vic by me, his best friend, and his supporters?

Consider the following. In this same deposition Vic also denies knowing anything about Anime News Network, the largest anime industry news website in the world, discussing everything related to the industry of which he has been a part of for almost 20 years.

Transcription of page 49:

Mr. Lemoine (Q): Is that a fairly influential publication in the world?

Vic Mignogna (A): I — I don’t know.

Q: Have you been mentioned in it before in a positive manner?

A: I don’t even know, actually.

Q: Have you ever —

A: I’ve not really followed it.

Q: Have you ever read it before?

A: No sir.

This statement contradicts Vic Mignogna’s hour-long interview with the founder and executive editor of Anime News Network, Justin Sevakis and Zac Bertschy, on August 29, 2013, for their official podcast called ANNCast. Here is a link to the mp3.

Somehow Vic forgot this moment in his life. He forgot the company’s existence and importance in the industry. And he forgot when they discussed Vic’s “outspoken Christianity” and his habit of expressing his religious views at anime conventions across the country for a tense 31 minutes. During this moment, Vic is put on the spot by the hosts to explain why he holds Sunday sermons at conventions, and how he thinks this is an acceptable thing to do at a secular event.

How can a person forget all of that?

Likewise, on Page 56, Vic is asked if he has ever heard of the site Gizmodo and io9, which published a feature article about him and the surrounding allegations on February 19. He replied, “No, sir.” This, despite the fact that he interviewed via email for the article with the author, Beth Elderkin, with a lengthy response.

Only upon seeing the article in print, as Exhibit 8, does he acknowledge the article and his responses, which he says he crafted with the help of an unnamed husband-and-wife public relations company in Florida, via multiple drafts. However, Vic says he never read the published article because his friends told him that the author “did not print my full responses.”

If you read the full deposition, you’ll find Vic’s forgetfulness is a common theme. Even though these events are recent, the words, “I don’t remember,” “I don’t know,” and “I don’t recall it that way,” appear throughout the deposition.

In the same vein, how could it be the case that Vic Mignogna claims he has never heard of me, my site, or my article, when his best friend says that he spoke with Vic about me, my site, and my article on several occasions over the course of the last 5 months?

I’m not saying that one of them is lying, because I don’t have evidence that such conversations between them did in-fact occur. But it would be difficult for both to be true, and that’s a curious thing. These contradictions are worth pointing out.

I’m trusting that Todd Hewey is being genuine when I speak with him.

I’m not whining that Vic didn’t speak with me. He can do whatever he wants.

And since I don’t have the answer to this contradiction, I won’t condemn, condone, or make accusations.

But it seems weird, doesn’t it?

I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.

Conclusion

This lawsuit appears to be far from over.

As a reminder to Vic’s supporters, I did try to speak with Vic and I’m open to speaking with his attorney at any time. I have already reached out to Mr. Beard. I’ll treat them and everyone else associated with the case with respect.

How do you feel about this filing, Vic’s deposition, and these contradictory claims? Can you explain them?

Leave your comments below.

Note: This article was edited slightly a few hours after publiction to better comply with the legal concerns of the case.

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