Producer's Hawaii suit against #MeToo accuser allowed to proceed

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal judge declined to dismiss Hollywood producer Brett Ratner's defamation lawsuit against a local scuba instructor, who accused him of raping her 12 years ago.

The woman, Melanie Kohler, alleged in a Facebook post in October that she met Ratner at a Hollywood club in 2005, saying that he then "preyed on me as a drunk girl (and) forced himself on me."

Kohler, who has since recounted the alleged sex assault in interviews with ABC News, has said the posting was inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which dozens of women accused the Hollywood producer of sex abuse, triggering the #me-too movement.

"My client stands by what is in her Facebook post. She had no reason to do this other than what she said, which is to tell the truth and give the other women the courage to speak up as well," said Kohler's attorney Robbie Kaplan.

But Ratner's attorneys, Martin Singer of California and Honolulu lawyer Eric Seitz, deny their client raped Kohler. They said her allegations have damaged Ratner's reputation and have hurt him financially.

"He certainly denies that he did anything forcefully, or illegally or anything that constitutes a crime," said Seitz.

"The allegations have made him back out of some very large projects, voluntarily, as I understand it."

Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor denied Kohler's motion to dismiss. But she's still allowing Kohler to challenge the lawsuit under California's anti-SLAPP law because the alleged rape occurred there and  that's where Ratner suffered the most harm.

That law provides broad free speech protections from costly lawsuits intended to intimidate or silence critics.

Trial is scheduled for March 2019.

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