Pepperdine drops lawsuit over dumping allegations

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Local videographer “Mr. Malibu” offers a retraction for videos he posted online which claimed the university was dumping sewage on Malibu Beach.

By Knowles Adkisson / Associate Editor

Pepperdine University this weekend dropped a libel lawsuit it filed last month against local videographer Cary ONeal for videos ONeal posted on the Internet that blamed the university for contaminated stormwater runoff on Malibu Beach. In exchange, ONeal issued a retraction through the media. On March 25 and April 1, ONeal, whose nickname is Mr. Malibu, uploaded videos on YouTube.com purporting to show stormwater runoff that had been fouled by sewage and sewage effluent from the Malibu Mesa Water Reclamation Facility and onto Malibu Beach through the Marie Canyon culvert. The facility is owned and operated by Los Angeles County, and used by Pepperdine.

“I acknowledge that these statements were inaccurate,” ONeal said in a statement dated April 27 to The Malibu Times. “I have been advised, and believe, that the County did not discharge sewage or sewage effluent from Malibu Mesa onto a Malibu beach on March 25, 2012. I have apologized to Pepperdine for any harm caused by my statements and I am grateful that Pepperdine has agreed to dismiss the lawsuit it filed against me.”

ONeal is a local videographer who goes by the nickname Mr. Malibu and operates a website as well as a Facebook page where he posts mainly noncontroversial videos of celebrity events and interviews with celebrities in Malibu.

After ONeal posted the first video on March 25, Pepperdine officials sent him a cease-and-desist letter demanding ONeal remove it, saying that the university was not responsible for whatever came out of the Malibu Mesa facility because it was a county-operated treatment plant. It also said there was no polluted runoff on March 25, the day ONeal said the video was taken, and that the larger than usual outflow shown in the video was a result of significant rains at the time.

ONeal refused to remove the video and repeated the claims on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

Pepperdine then contacted Facebook directly and had ONeal’s fan page removed. ONeal responded by posting a message on his other Internet pages saying “Facebook wrongfully removed my Mr. Malibu fan page after I posted a video showing the pollution coming from Pepperdine on Saturday.”

ONeal then posted a 4-minute version of the first video on YouTube on April 1 with the title “Malibu, California, USA – Luxury Beach Homes of Adam Sandler, Tom Hanks, David Duchovny and Pink Under Siege.” The video appeared to suggest the university was dumping effluent near the celebrities’ homes.

After several days when ONeal did not remove the video, the university filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 11 for libel and “invasion of privacy by placing person in false light in public eye.”

Jerry Derloshon, senior director of public affairs at Pepperdine, told The Malibu Times last week “the content in the video is totally false. After failing to reach another solution, we felt it was necessary to bring this lawsuit.”

Last week, before he issued the retraction, ONeal said in an email to The Malibu Times that he had since complied with Pepperdine’s request to take down the video; and that “if they don’t drop the suit, they might as well try to squeeze blood out of a turnip.”

In the same email dating to before the retraction, ONeal said he first became aware of the effluent flowing out of Marie Canyon Creek back in 1999 after family and friends told him about it. On the day he recorded the video, he wrote “I can assure you [the runoff] stank to high hell and was clearly polluted.”