After six years of legal sniping, actor Steven Seagal and his former business partner, Julius R. Nasso, buried the hatchet Sunday, ending a bitter court battle that had spawned allegations of contract breach and Mafia extortion.
As a result of the confidential, out-of-court settlement, Nasso is expected to drop his $60-million lawsuit against Seagal, which alleged that the actor reneged on an agreement to produce four films with him. In exchange, Seagal agreed to pay Nasso $500,000, according to people familiar with the terms of the settlement. The two men also agreed to sever all ties.
Representatives of Seagal and Nasso declined to comment on the financial details of the settlement. Seagal, who was working in Hawaii on his next movie, was unavailable Sunday. Nasso, reached by phone in New York, said: "I'm glad it's behind us. I wish him the best."
During a partnership spanning more than a decade, Seagal starred in a string of blockbuster hits, including "On Deadly Ground" and "Under Siege 2," that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Nasso helped produce them. The two former best friends were next-door neighbors in New York City's Staten Island, where they worked and partied together earlier in their careers.
By 2000, three years after their exclusive production deal at Warner Bros. ended, Seagal and Nasso had had a falling out. In March 2002, Nasso sued Seagal for $60 million, alleging that the film star had reneged on an arrangement to develop, produce and market movie projects with him. Seagal denied the existence of any such contract.
Three months later, the FBI arrested Nasso at his Staten Island home for conspiring to extort Seagal. The film producer, who started as a Brooklyn pharmacist, was indicted along with 16 people with alleged ties to the Gambino crime family, including Peter Gotti, brother of the late mob boss John Gotti. Nasso's brother Vincent also was indicted. Another brother, who is married to a Gambino, was not.
The extortion plot was uncovered during a lengthy federal investigation of mob influence over shipping docks in New York. By chance, authorities said, they secretly recorded Nasso discussing the plot with a local Mafia captain during a wiretapped conversation at an Italian restaurant.
Nasso's lawyers publicly blamed his arrest on Seagal, accusing the film star of initiating the extortion probe as retribution against his partner for the filing of the lawsuit. Seagal's attorneys scoffed at the accusation, deferring to authorities who said the probe had been in progress years before Nasso began litigation.
In August 2003, Nasso pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort Seagal. During the sentencing hearing, the judge questioned the government's branding of Nasso as a mob associate, characterizing his role in the extortion conspiracy as "aberrant" conduct in his otherwise law-abiding past.
Nasso was sentenced and served one year in a federal penitentiary in Elkton, Ohio. After his release, the government reinstated his pharmacy license.
On Sunday, Nasso said he hoped to remove the offense from his record by requesting a presidential pardon. As part of the settlement, Seagal agreed to write a letter indicating that he would support Nasso's application for a pardon.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun