Steven Tyler attends the GBK Brand Bar Back Stage during Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on November 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for GBK Brand Bar)
Steven Tyler’s own words could be used as evidence against him as he faces sexual assault allegations in court—a case that’s highly unusual because others like it don’t usually go to trial in the first place, legal experts say.Earlier this year, Tyler was formally named in a lawsuit that was initially filed in December against unnamed defendants. The suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses Tyler of sexual assault, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
It was filed after new California legislation created a legal window for survivors of child sexual abuse to come forward with years-old allegations. Julia Misley (formerly Julia Holcomb) alleges Tyler started abusing her in the 1970s when she was 16.Tyler is one of the latest powerful entertainers who have faced or are facing sexual assault allegations in civil or criminal cases in the years following the mainstreaming of #MeToo: Marilyn Manson, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, and “That 70s Show” actor Danny Masterson, have all faced sexual assault allegations that have resulted in court proceedings. Earlier this month, Nick Carter decided to sue the women accusing him of rape.
“The fact that we can name so many people and so many cases is because of how rampant the conduct has been and perhaps continues to be,” Lesley Brovner, a co-founder of NYC-based litigation firm Peters Brovner LLP, told VICE News. But the legal proceedings against Tyler are in some ways unique. Many of the allegations against him aren’t new: Misley has spoken out against Tyler in the past, and the Aerosmith singer’s own memoir corroborates some of the claims she’s made. These details, along with the fact that Tyler had allegedly secured guardianship over Misley when she was a minor, make the case different from others, legal experts say. And, they say, it’s also unusual that the case is going to a trial at all. “I’m fairly certain there were negotiations and talks before [the suit] was filed, but whether it was Tyler adamant about not settling or the accuser who wanted to go public with her claims, I don't know. But it’s pretty unusual,” Aurore DeCarlo, senior partner with C.A. Goldberg, a law firm specializing in victims’ rights, told VICE News. DeCarlo said part of the reason cases are usually settled is because the parties involved often don’t want details to go public. “For the accuser, litigation can be retraumatizing. You’re reliving the trauma you’ve experienced and that can be very difficult and you may hope to avoid it,” DeCarlo added. As for the accused, they often want to keep the accusations private and “have it go away as quickly and quietly as possible,” Brovner said.
In the suit, Misley alleges that Tyler groomed, exploited, and sexually abused her. She reportedly recounts several details, including how she met Tyler in Portland, Oregon, in 1973 at an Aerosmith concert. She was 16, and he was 25. After the show he allegedly took her back to his hotel, where they discussed her age before he “performed various acts of criminal sexual conduct,” the lawsuit reportedly states. After that, Misley alleges, the two were together for about three years. The suit alleges that by 1974, Tyler convinced Misley’s mother to grant him guardianship, so he’d be able to live and travel with Misley with ease and without criminal prosecution. He also told Misley’s mother that he’d support the teenager and help her access healthcare and education, the suit alleges, but he didn’t follow through and instead “continued to travel with, assault and provide alcohol and drugs to Plaintiff.” Misley also reportedly recounts how Tyler allegedly convinced her to get an abortion. (Misley has spoken out against abortion on right wing channels.) “I want this action to expose an industry that protects celebrity offenders, to cleanse and hold accountable an industry that both exploited and allowed me to be exploited for years, along with so many other naïve and vulnerable kids and adults,” Misley said of the suit in a statement.
Tyler’s own 2004 memoir nods at several of the details listed in Misley’s suit. He details sexual encounters with a young woman, and Rolling Stone reported the singer writes that he became the girl’s guardian so that he could circumvent arrest while they travelled out of state. “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 a cute skinny little tomboy dressed up as Little Bo Peep. She was my heart’s desire, my partner in crimes of passion,” he wrote decades after the alleged assault took place.“Sometimes these cases involve men who have never been held accountable for their actions and they feel they never will be,” Brovner said.Sexual assault cases are already difficult to corroborate and prove—and it’s even more difficult if decades have passed since the alleged crime. But Tyler’s memoir could end up supporting Misley’s testimony. “For something that occurred almost 40 years ago, that’s really important to have a piece of evidence of that kind,” DeCarlo said of Tyler’s memoir. “This seems to be quite a strong case on a number of different claims… A lot of evidence potentially still has to be uncovered, but [Misley] is coming into this case with a strong claim and strong evidence considering how long ago this occurred.”And the time that has passed could actually work in Misley’s favor, experts say, because she’ll be able to show how the assault impacted her over the course of her entire life.“It’s very powerful for the jury to hear and to think about compensation when they’re realizing the impact of this abuse is not light,” New York attorney Debra Greenberger told Business Insider. “It’s lifelong, and it’s decades later that the survivors can testify really powerfully about grave impact of child sexual abuse.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.