LOS ANGELES—Two days following the announcement in March by AIDS Healthcare Foundation that it had filed a complaint with the Director of Public Health for the County of Los Angeles accusing Immoral Productions of, among other things, shooting scenes in the county without using condoms, the Health Department began an investigation into the allegations, Immoral Productions CEO “Porno Dan” Leal told AVN today. The results of the investigation followed quickly: Immoral was cleared of any wrongdoing. It was clear vindication for a man who insists he has been working hard for years to become a responsible producer of hardcore content.
AVN spoke Tuesday with Leal and his attorney, Michael Fattorosi, in an exclusive interview about the investigation, the results of which are only now being disclosed. Though Leal is clearly relieved that the potentially serious charges AHF allegedly received from an anonymous source have been found to be baseless, he and Fattorosi remain troubled by the fact that AHF felt emboldened enough not only to file the complaint without having conducted any apparent due diligence, but also to follow up the filing with a press release and press conference before an investigation into the charges was even begun. In fact, Fattorosi has sent a letter to AHF (see below) demanding a retraction, with the caveat, “Failure to publicly retract your statements may lead to litigation.”
Leal told AVN, however, that he has no such complaints about the manner in which Health Department inspectors conducted themselves during their inspection of his workplace. “They could easily have come in and hassled us, but they didn’t,” he said. “I have no complaint with them. They were courteous to us and utterly professional.”
Leal was kind enough to answer the following questions from AVN:
What were the original allegations by AHF?
That we did not have an exposure control plan, we had not been through blood-borne pathogen training, we did not have proper signage and we did not shoot with condoms.
How long after AHF filed their complaint did the Health Department conduct their investigation?
They called us the next day and came to my studio the following day to do their on-site investigation.
What were the results of the investigation? When did you first get them? Why have you delayed releasing the results?
They found no wrongdoing and dismissed the charges. Quite frankly, I am very busy running my company and expanding our operations; that is why I delayed releasing the finding.
How long did the investigation last? Do you have any details about the extent of the investigation? How many people did they interview, if any? Did they watch the video in question?
They were at my studio for about an hour and a half. They took pictures of our signage, condoms we have available, my invoices from Stericycle (who handle our biohazard removal—used condoms), my Stericycle trash can, locked unit where we keep the trash can, red bio-hazard bags, latex gloves and pictures of our set and studio. They already had copies of my exposure control plan from when I went to apply for my health permit. The video in question was from 2011.
Do you know if this investigation by the Health Department was a new endeavor for them, or whether it was routine? Aside from the results, do you have any issues with the way they conducted the investigation?
This was their first investigation and I have no issues with the way they conducted themselves. I found them to be very professional.
Did you find out anything specific you did not previously know about the genesis of the original complaint, and who might have been the anonymous tipster?
Yes, we were able to read the complaint which was sent to the AHF. I believe, based on the way it was worded, that it came from someone who works in the adult industry.
Is there a lesson for producers or talent to learn from this first reporting episode in terms of preparing for a potential investigation by the Health Department?
Make sure you apply for and have all your permits in order and that you shoot with condoms. Use someone like we use at Stericycle to help you get your exposure control plan in place. It is not a question of if you will get caught if you do not do these things, but when.
Obviously, AHF submitted a false report of a violation to the Health Department? Do you believe they were incompetent in doing so, acted in good faith, or too quickly out of malice? Is there anything beyond speculation that you know regarding their motives?
No comment. [See next question.]
AHF not only submitted a report of a violation by Immoral, but held a press conference and disseminated the "news" to the world. How do you plan to respond to that, if at all?
I’ll let my lawyer comment on that.
Fattorosi commented: I cannot say what Mr. McGrath, Mr. Weinstein, or AHF's motives were for filing the complaint. I do believe that they acted with malice. That seems clear from their press release and the subsequent press conference. In my opinion, AHF targeted Immoral and Dan. Even the mainstream reporters covering the press conference sensed this and asked Weinstein why did he file a complaint against the one company that was complying with the law. I also find it interesting that AHF has now removed their libelous press release about Immoral Productions from their website.
[As far as a "plan to respond," see Michael Fattorosi's May 21 letter below]
What have you learned, if anything, from this episode?
I learned you can't be proactive enough, and I am very thankful I have all of our permits, exposure control plan and signage in place.
Leal also stressed to AVN that his commitment to being a responsible member of the adult entertainment industry, including taking an active involvement in the CalOSHA process for several years, is nothing new. In fact, Leal reminded AVN that he was previously inspected by CalOSHA regarding the disposal of condoms and passed the inspection with flying colors, and that he also was previously cited for filming without a film permit, which Fattorosi got dismissed by the court as well.
Leal added that police officers who have stopped by his studio—less than a handful of times for periodic visits—have made clear to him that there is a task force already in place that is tasked with finding illegal porn shoots as well as any other productions that do not have the requisite permits. The LAPD task force, he said, is comprised of six officers who travel around the city making sure that all film shoots, including porn shoots, have the right FilmLA permits.
“If you’re shooting without condoms in L.A.,” he warned, “you’re going to get caught.”
In the end, the larger message for Leal seems to be that if this can happen to a producer who is also well-known to everyone involved—AHF, LAPD, County Health and CalOSHA—it can happen to anyone.
“Complying with this law is not something I ever wanted to do,” he told AVN, “but the sad reality is that the nature of my business and my high profile in the industry puts a target on me, and I accept that. All these investigations do is make my company stronger. This did not hurt my business at all; in fact, my business has grown during this time period.
“And we’re shooting live,” he added. “During our live shows, people will ask me, why are you shooting with condoms, and I reply to them right away, it’s the law. But even more amazing is that other members in the chat will also jump up to defend our decision to shoot with condoms.”
He added that as a performer he also now shoots with condoms and that even though it was not easy to perform with them at first, he quickly got used to them. He said the same goes for his hired performers, who also have had to adjust, but he said they are all acclimating to the new requirement just fine.
Fattorosi's letter to AHF on behalf of Immoral, which he sent today, May 21, notes that the organization was informed by the Department of Health in a letter dated April 15, 2013 that its complaint was “not substantiated” and that the “investigation was closed,” and no further action would be taken. (Both letters are available below.]
“We now demand," the letter continued, "that AIDS Healthcare Foundation publish a retraction to their libelous press release dated March 19, 2013... Your retraction should be distributed via Business Wire, the same service that distributed your original press release which libeled my clients. Your organization should be bear such costs in order to mitigate the damages that my client has suffered. My client demands that the press release stating your retraction also be posted to your website (aidshealth.org). It is noted that you have already removed your original press release from your website. For this we thank you; however, that is insufficient to make my client whole.” The mention of possible litigation follows.
The March 17 complaint sent by AHF to County Health is here.
The April 15 letter from County Health to AHF clearing Immoral Productions is here.
Michael Fattorosi’s May 21 retraction demand letter to AHF is here.
Image: Immoral Productions CEO Dan Leal, left, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein.