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Rocker Steven Tyler’s ‘repugnant’ consent defense to teen sex abuse claims is ‘gaslighting,’ accuser’s lawyer says


Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith, performs on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Fenway Park in Boston. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Invision/AP)

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler‘s “obnoxious and potentially dangerous” consent defense to teen sexual abuse claims opens a “horrific double wound,” his accuser’s lawyer says.

The “Cryin'” crooner argues that any claims of abuse made by the then-16-year-old Julia Misley (formerly known as Julia Holcomb) should be dismissed, among other reasons, on the grounds of consent. Tyler also asserted that his alleged status as Misley’s legal guardian at the time shielded him from some of her allegations.

Misley’s attorney Jeff Anderson scorched those “morally and legally repugnant” defenses as ones that put vulnerable children at risk.

Tyler used a “sham legal guardianship” to avoid prosecution for sex crimes when the rocker actually had a duty of care to ensure their client’s safety as part of a “sacred legal agreement,” according to Anderson. Tyler allegedly put Misley’s life in danger and forced her client to have an abortion after leaving her stranded in an empty apartment while she was pregnant, according to the lawsuit.

Misley, now 66, sued Tyler in Los Angeles County Superior Court last December. The lawsuit was filed under the 2020 California Child Victims Act, which temporarily paused the statute of limitations to allow juvenile victims of sexual abuse to file civil suits against their abusers until the end of 2022. Similar acts have been adopted in other states around the country, often leading to a deluge of lawsuits filed decades after the alleged abuse occurred.

Misley claimed that Tyler used money and influence when she was a minor and he was in his 20s and brought claims for sexual assault, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to Misley, Tyler’s abuse went on for three years and crossed into numerous states.

Misley says in her filing that the relationship with Tyler began a month after she turned 16 in 1973, when she went backstage at an Aerosmith concert and talked with Tyler about her difficult relationship with her parents. Misley says she stayed overnight in Tyler’s hotel room and that he “performed various acts of criminal sexual conduct” on her.

Misley alleges that over the next few years, Tyler flew her to other concerts while the two continued a sexual relationship. According to Misley’s lawsuit,  Tyler convinced Misley’s parents to sign over guardianship of Misley to him in 1974, “so that he could more easily travel with [Misley] and avoid criminal prosecution.”

In her lawsuit, Misley says that Tyler promised her parents that he would enroll her in school, support her, and provide her with medical care — but that in actuality, he followed through on none of these pledges and instead continued to assault and provide alcohol and drugs to her.

Misley also asserts that in 1975, she became pregnant as a result of Tyler’s sexual abuse, and that Tyler persuaded her not to get prenatal care. During her pregnancy, Tyler allegedly left her in an apartment “with little food, money and without a car,” and that the apartment caught fire and she lost consciousness from smoke inhalation, according to the lawsuit. Misley says she then awoke in a Catholic hospital and that Tyler “pressured and coerced [her] to have an abortion by threatening that he would send her back to her family and cease to support and love her.” She claims that Tyler’s “agents” helped arrange the abortion at a non-Catholic facility.

Tyler, whose legal name is Steven Victor Tallarico, filed an answer to Misley’s complaint on March 28, 2023 in which he categorically and bluntly denied the plaintiff’s allegations and requested that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The filing is relatively brief and raises no counterclaims against Misley. Rather, it simply lists 24 affirmative defenses, including consent, immunity and more.

Tyler also claimed that Misley, “has not suffered any injury or damage as a result of any action by Defendant,” and alternatively, that if a court determines Misley suffered harm, that he was not the cause of that harm.

That filing sparked a blistering response from Anderson, ripping Tyler on Wednesday for “gaslighting” and “retraumatizing” his client. Anderson referred to Tyler’s pleading of “consent” as a defense as “more than a weak attempt to shift blame” and called it “a real and dangerous public safety threat to any vulnerable child who is currently in any kind of legal guardianship.” Anderson elaborated, saying that whether a child is “16 months or 16 years,” guardianship does not and has never implied any time of consent to sexual abuse.

“To say any different is morally and legally repugnant,” wrote Anderson.

Anderson had harsh words for Tyler and the entire music industry:

Tyler has spent the past 40 years continually hurting, shaming, profiting from, and retraumatizing this courageous survivor. He hid behind his lawyers, his celebrity status, and laws that protected him (until the law in California changed (AB 218)).  Now he can’t hide any longer—it’s time for him and every predator in the music and entertainment industry to be held accountable to the law and to every vulnerable child who was exploited, abused, and raped. It’s time.

We hope Tyler’s mean-spirited gaslighting will backfire on him. We hope anyone else who used his fame, talent and money to exploit other girls will find the courage now to speak up and help stop this devastating and all-too-common type of abuse in the music industry.  It’s time.

Counsel for Tyler did not respond to request for comment.

Tyler’s 2004 memoir discusses an ongoing relationship that mirrors some of Misley’s claims, though the singer maintains that he is not liable for the allegations raised in her lawsuit.

One excerpt reads:

She was 16, she knew how to nasty … with my bad self being twenty-six and she barely old enough to drive and sexy as hell, I just fell madly in love with her… She was my heart’s desire, my partner in crimes of passion… I was so in love I almost took a teen bride. I went and slept at her parent’s house for a couple of nights and her parent’s fell in love with me, signed paper over for me to have custody, so I wouldn’t get arrested if I took her out of state. I took her on tour with me.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos