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“Sandra told me to do it” - Lawsuit alleges OC Modeling agent hoped to obtain hush money from Gamma when she instructed Aria Lee to go public with assault claims against Craven Moorehead in 2020

Attorney says deposition reveals Gamma fired Moorehead and agreed to pay nearly $100,000 in exchange for Lee’s silence

By Austin King / Editor

Nov 27, 2023

Sandra McCarthy, Aria Lee, and Craven Moorehead

A defamation lawsuit filed by producer Craven Moorehead alleges Aria Lee’s decision to go public with sexual assault accusations made against him in 2020 was part of a conspiracy hatched by her agent, Sandra McCarthy, to procure hush money from Gamma Films Group.

And Moorehead’s legal team claims the scheme was a success.

Robert Hantman, Moorehead’s New York-based attorney, told PornCrush that Gamma funneled nearly $100,000 to McCarthy’s OC Modeling agency to “keep Lee quiet” about the alleged assaults, including one Lee claims occurred on their set.

Hantman said information about the payment surfaced during Lee’s deposition when she was speaking under oath.

“The money was supposed to go from Gamma to OC Modeling and then to Aria Lee,” Hantman said. “We believe she only got one payment and never received the rest. We’re confident there are documents that (show) the payment was made. We’ve requested those documents and expect them to be turned over to us soon.”

According to the lawsuit, which was obtained this week by PornCrush, Lee expressed regret about posting her accusations against Moorehead on Twitter in June 2020 when she spoke to an industry colleague a few weeks later.

“How the hell do I undo this?” Lee told the colleague, who recounted the conversation to a private investigator.

The investigator’s interview notes, which are summarized in the lawsuit, state that the colleague asked Lee why she made the accusations online and then again during a subsequent interview with AVN. “She said her agent, Sandra McCarthy, told her to,” the notes read.

Later that fall, Lee allegedly broke down while discussing the situation with performer Savannah Sixx, whom she was dating at the time. Sixx said she provided the following information in a sworn deposition last spring.

“Sandra promised Aria that if she lied, she’d split the money with her,” Sixx told PornCrush. “She was doing what Sandra told her to do.

“One day, we were on the couch, and she started to cry. She was like, ‘I should’ve told the truth. I should’ve told the truth. I fucking hate Sandra. She’s ruining my life.’”

McCarthy declined to comment when reached by phone Sunday evening.

Filed in September 2020, Moorehead’s $10 million suit against Lee is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles.

More recently, PornCrush has learned that Moorehead filed a second lawsuit in March 2023 against Gamma Films for $1 million. Gamma terminated Moorehead’s contract as a third-party producer within days of Lee’s Twitter post and AVN interview.

Gamma had initially backed Moorehead when Lee went to executives with her assault allegations in January 2020. According to the lawsuit, after the corporation hired an investigator to look into the claims, Gamma president Karl Bernard informed Moorehead that the probe found “no validity” to Lee’s allegations and that he “had nothing to worry about.”

Moorehead continued to work for Gamma—albeit under a new contract for less money—for the next five months.

But on June 8, 2020—three days after Lee’s Twitter post—Bernard telephoned Moorehead and informed him that, even though he “still did not believe the allegations against him,” he was terminating his contract “due to public backlash.”

Bernard, the lawsuit states, assured Moorehead that, per the non-disparagement/confidentiality clause in his contract, Gamma would not be making any public statements about the allegations or his termination. Instead, Gamma issued three statements to various media outlets over the next seven days, including one in which Bernard said Gamma fired Moorehead after receiving “additional information” about Lee’s allegations.

“There was nothing new in the investigation to support him being fired,” Hantman said. “Even worse, there was a confidentiality agreement, and they weren’t supposed to say anything. But they actually said things which were essentially in support of her and not him. They tried to implicate him, which was defamatory.”

Moorehead is suing Gamma for breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith, internal misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation.

Lee’s claims against Moorehead stem from two incidents she alleges occurred late in 2019.

The first, she says, occurred on Oct. 11 during a lunch break on the Gamma Films Group’s Pure Taboo banner set. Lee, who was 19 at the time, alleges she asked Moorehead to show her to the bathroom.

“He was like, ‘Of course, I’ll walk you up there, this place is confusing,’” Lee told AVN in June of 2020. “He was being nice. I thought he was being a good director. He takes me to the bathroom, and as I’m closing the door, he rushes in, pushes the door closed, pushes me down to my knees, takes his dick out, and then makes me suck his dick … And he just walked out and acted like nothing happened.”

Lee told AVN the second encounter occurred after Moorehead insisted on driving her to set Dec. 8. During the car ride, Lee claims Moorehead tried to force her to service him orally. When Lee refused, she alleges Moorehead grabbed her hand, forced it onto his penis, and made her “jerk it off.”

Lee approached Gamma Films in January 2020 through her lawyer about the first incident. Gamma hired an independent investigator to conduct an internal investigation and couldn’t find any validity to Lee’s accusation.

Still, on Feb. 11, Moorhead’s lawsuit against Gamma claims the corporation “forced Moorehead into agreeing to a less valuable (contract)” than the one he’d operated under since September of 2018.

Moorehead’s original deal included an “exclusivity retainer fee” of $3,000 per month. The agreement also stipulated that Moorehead would earn an additional $1,000 per day of production, with a guaranteed minimum of 12 production days per month.

Under the new deal, the retainer fee would be terminated after Oct. 1. And the guaranteed number of production days would be reduced from 12 to eight. Thus, once all of the stipulations went into effect, Moorehead’s guaranteed salary would drop from $180,000 to $96,000.

“(Gamma) chose to seize an opportunity to take advantage of Plaintiffs’ unfortunate circumstances by demanding that Plaintiffs enter into a new agreement,” the lawsuit reads.

Later in February, AVN said it received an anonymous letter detailing Lee’s allegations. Although she confirmed the letter’s claims during a meeting with an AVN reporter on March 2, Lee said she wasn’t ready to go public.

That changed on June 5, when Lee read select passages from the anonymous letter—saying she had no idea who wrote it—in an 8-minute video posted on her Twitter account.

Later that day, Lee was interviewed again by AVN, and the website posted its story on June 6.

The lawsuit notes multiple discrepancies between the anonymous letter Lee read on Twitter and the information she provided to AVN.

For instance, the letter Lee read during the video alleged Moorehead raped her on set in the first assault. But during her interview with AVN, she said the physical contact was limited to oral sex.

Also, the letter claimed that both of the alleged assaults by Moorehead occurred on Gamma sets. However, during the AVN interview, she claims the second assault took place during the car ride. Lee also told AVN that Moorehead “insisted” on driving her to set Dec. 8. But the lawsuit counters that it was Lee who requested the ride from Moorehead, adding that she took an Uber to meet him at his house instead of going directly to set.

“It defies logic that she would voluntarily Uber to Craven’s house instead of continuing her ride directly to the film set if he had just forcibly assaulted her the previous time they were together,” the lawsuit reads.

The AVN article included a statement from Gamma Films, which confirmed it had investigated Lee’s claims the previous January.

“The conclusion of that investigation was that it has been impossible to validate the veracity of the allegations in question,” the statement read.

Two days later, Gamma reversed course.

The lawsuit against Lee states that on June 8, Bernard and an associate “called Moorehead and told him that while there was no evidence to corroborate Lee’s allegations and they did not believe the allegations, they had decided to terminate him due to prevailing public opinion and all the negative publicity surrounding the allegations.

“They stated, in sum and substance: ‘We aren’t saying we believe her [Aria Lee], but the public backlash and bad press are going to be too big on this. The risk isn’t worth the reward. We are going to exercise our 90-day termination clause in the contract.’”

The lawsuit states Bernard assured Moorehead it would adhere to their agreement's confidentiality clause and not comment publicly. Instead, Gamma allegedly breached the agreement three times over the next week by issuing separate statements to Vice Media and XBiZ while also addressing the firing on its own website.

Bernard’s June 9 statement to Vice read: “Following additional information that was reported to us since our original investigation into Aria Lee’s allegations, I decided on Monday to sever ties with Black Wings Media and its director, Craven Moorehead.”

The lawsuit claims the statement is false and defamatory: ”The statement falsely suggested that there was newfound evidence corroborating Lee’s claims that she was sexually assaulted by Moorehead. There was, in fact, no such evidence. There was no additional information corroborating Lee’s allegations.”

After he was terminated, Moorehead’s legal team hired a private investigator to examine Lee’s claims further.

Carla Zuniga, a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who specializes in sexual assault crimes, conducted interviews with multiple parties, including five people who were on the Pure Taboo set on Oct. 11. According to Zuniga’s notes, none of them saw Lee or Moorehead leave the main area of the set together.

  • Director of Photography Matt Holder said Lee’s demeanor didn’t change throughout the day and that he never noticed her being visibly upset.
  • Production assistant Sean McDougall said he never saw Lee and Moorehead “wander off” and that Lee seemed “okay” when he saw her waiting for her Uber after the scene wrapped.
  • Makeup artist Cameron Ellis Darling said Lee arrived to set late, just before the lunch break, and that Moorehead asked her to work through lunch and get Lee ready as fast as she could. Darling worked on Lee throughout the lunch break—the same time Lee alleged to AVN that the assault occurred. Darling also told Zuniga that Lee requested several “touch-ups” to the side of her face during breaks in filming and that she had never noticed her lipstick or lip gloss being smeared.
  • Performer Emma Starletto has known Lee since the seventh grade. The two were roommates at the time of the alleged assaults and “told each other everything.” Starletto told Zuniga that she texted with Lee multiple times during the day of the shoot and that they went out together that night. She said Lee never mentioned an assault and that she didn’t know about either alleged assault until she saw Lee’s Twitter post eight months later.

Starletto also told Zuniga that Lee is “known to lie and to be deceptive, mean and arrogant.”

“(Zuniga) found that there was nothing, just like the Gamma investigator did,” Hantman told PornCrush. “We believe Gamma succumbed to pressure from Aria Lee and paid her and her agent money to keep them quiet.”

Sixx said Lee never brought up the alleged payment by Gamma during their three-month relationship in the fall of 2020. But she said she’d be surprised if Lee ever received a significant financial sum from either Gamma or McCarthy.

Sixx said that Lee constantly complained about being “broke” and once asked her for a $25,000 loan.

“She’d cry to me about how she didn’t have money to pay her lawyers,” Sixx told PornCrush. “But once she told me the truth, I had no respect for her. She was still talking to Sandra, still listening to her about what to do about the case. And Aria was doing it. Just like she is now with the whole, ‘My abuser is still in the industry’ thing. Sandra fucked her up.

“All of this really changed Aria. She’s not the same. Now, she’s in this predicament and doesn’t know how to deal with it. She’s probably scared of going through this alone. She doesn’t know what to do.”

McCarthy and Moorehead are expected to be deposed next month. Moorehead did not return a message from PornCrush seeking comment. Lee did not respond to direct messages from PornCrush on her ‘X’ account, and her lawyer, Zach Zermay, did not return a text message or email.

Lawyers for Gamma did not return emails from PornCrush Sunday evening. However, while responding in a court filing to Moorehead’s official complaint, Gamma denied “each and every” allegation made by Moorehead and denied that he was entitled to “any (financial) relief whatsoever.”

While Moorehead’s case against Lee is scheduled for trial in January, his lawsuit against Gamma Films isn’t on the docket until May 2025.

“It’s a strong, strong lawsuit because they terminated him improperly,” Hantman said of the Gamma filing. “They defamed him. And they publicly spoke about the situation when they knew it wasn’t true. They damaged his reputation.”

Hantman—who is representing Moorehead along with Los Angeles-based attorney Kenneth Ingber—said Moorehead is determined to clear his name in both cases.

“It’s extraordinary that someone would go to these lengths—with so much time and trouble and expense—in order to have the truth revealed,” Hantman said. “He’s committed to sticking with this until the end.”

Austin King / Editor

Austin King spent nearly 20 years as a mainstream journalist before pivoting to coverage of the adult industry in 2020. He specializes in breaking news and in-depth features, with some of his best work to date coming for AVN Magazine in profiles of Gina Valentina, Casey Kisses, Anna-Claire Clouds, Kayden Kross, Chanel Camryn, Kenzie Anne, Lilly Bell and others. Austin resides in Texas but makes frequent trips to Porn Valley.