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Marilyn Manson’s accuser recanted under oath, claimed she was ‘manipulated’ by Evan Rachel Wood: Court document

Marilyn Manson via Frazer Harrison_Getty Images

Marilyn Manson (Photo via Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)

One of Marilyn Manson’s accusers recanted under oath, asserting that she had been “manipulated” by actress Evan Rachel Wood and others to falsely accuse him of sexual abuse, a new court filing alleges.

The dramatic reversal comes from Manson’s ex-girlfriend Ashley Morgan Smithline, who previously accused him of trafficking her in a lawsuit filed in 2021.

“Just days ago, she courageously offered to provide sworn testimony stating that she ‘succumbed to pressure from Evan Rachel Wood and her associates to make accusations of rape and assault against Warner that were not true” and felt ‘manipulated’ by Wood, Gore, and others to ‘spread publicly false accusations of abuse against Mr. Warner,'” the document, filed on Thursday, states. “Smithline explains she was repeatedly gaslit by Wood, Gore, and others to believe that she had been abused by Warner, in similar ways that Wood and others were alleging that Wood was abused.”

“Not my experience”

Smithline’s declaration describes conversations with Wood, in which the pair allegedly goaded her to say that she endured extreme sexual abuse.

“During my conversations with Ms. Wood, she described acts allegedly committed by Mr. Warner against Ms. Wood and other supposed victims and asked me whether the same things happened to me,” Smithline testified. “I remember she asked me whether I had been, among other things, whipped, chained, tied up, branded/cut, assaulted while sleeping, beaten, or raped. She said all of these things happened to Ms. Wood and others, and that when Ms. Wood was with Mr. Warner every moment was a moment of survival. When I said, no this did not happen to me and this was not my experience, I recall being told by Ms. Wood that just because I could not remember did not necessarily mean that it did not happen.”

Manson, whose birth name is Brian Warner, wants the court’s permission to file a sworn declaration from Smithline to support his lawsuit filed by Wood and artist Ilma Gore. The rocker sued Wood and Gore last year in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that the women joined in a conspiracy to derail his career by falsely painting him as a rapist and an abuser.

The women responded by seeking to dismiss the case under anti-SLAPP law, designed to punish the filing of civil complaints meant to stifle free speech. The acronym is short for strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Manson wants to use Smithline’s apparent about-face to fend off Wood and Gore’s motions.

“This newly obtained evidence is critical to Warner’s opposition to the anti-SLAPP motions, in which Defendants argue that there is no ‘admissible evidence substantiating his allegations that Wood [or Gore] engaged in ‘extreme and outrageous’ conduct by pressuring women ‘to make false accusations against [Plaintiff],'” Manson’s lawyer Howard E. King wrote.

“Repressing memories”

Smithline says that Wood and “Game of Thrones” actress Esmé Bianco, who reached an out-of-court settlement with Manson, asked whether she was repressing memories.

“I was asked whether I was repressing memories to just get through day-to-day life, and whether it was easier just to not think about what actually happened than accept reality,” Smithline testified. “They also said it was important for people to come forward so that no one else gets hurt.”

Manson’s legal team says that Smithline’s declaration shows his lawsuit against Wood and Gore had merit.

“The declaration leaves no doubt that Defendants’ attempt to exploit the anti-SLAPP statute to shield their wrongful conduct on a technicality is meritless,” the filing states.” “Smithline details under penalty of perjury how she ‘succumbed to pressure from Evan Rachel Wood and her associates to make accusations of rape and assault against Warner that were not true,’ and the reasons she felt ‘manipulated’ by Wood, Gore, and others to ‘spread publicly false accusations of abuse against Mr. Warner’—including in the civil complaint filed in Smithline’s now-dismissed federal court action, which she says ‘contained untrue statements about Mr. Warner, including that there was violence and non-consensual sexual activity.'”

In a statement, King characterized the development as a vindication.

“As we have always said, the coordinated campaign of #MeToo lies against Brian Warner is going to go down as one of the greatest hoaxes of all time,” King said. “Vulnerable women were manipulated by unscrupulous individuals seeking to build their own brands and pursue their own vendettas. This sworn testimony proves it.”

Smithline’s lawyer did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment. Neither did a representative for Wood.

Now the subject of numerous lawsuits and an investigation, Manson’s escalating legal troubles began to mount years after Wood testified before Congress on rights for sexual assault survivors in early 2021. She did not name Manson at the time, but years later, Wood did so on Instagram. Four women commented on the post, alleging that they had similar experiences with the singer.

A hearing has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. PT on Feb. 28, 2023, before Superior Court Judge Teresa A. Beaudet.

Read the filing here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."