Crime - Sacto 911

Lyon settles suit in secret taping

Another chapter in the Michael Lyon saga ended abruptly Monday as the former real estate magnate agreed to settle a civil lawsuit for $2.5 million – and an apology – over his illicit recordings of friends and houseguests.

On the first day of jury selection, with 55 jurors preparing to be questioned for the panel, the attorneys reached a financial agreement that will end the months-long civil suit involving eight plaintiffs.

All of the plaintiffs – including former nannies, baby sitters and family friends – said Lyon had secretly recorded them in bathrooms, bedrooms and showers in various stage of undress.

"He could not buy our silence," said plaintiff's attorney Bob Zimmerman. He said his clients would not accept any confidentiality agreement, and that they wanted to "disclose him for what he was."

Lyon's attorney, Rudy Nolen, could not be reached for comment.

The settlement, reached suddenly Monday afternoon after months of tense negotiations, spared both Lyon and the plaintiffs a civil trial of eight to 10 days that was expected to be filled with lurid testimony about hidden cameras, edited tapes with rating systems and shattered personal relationships.

The criminal side of the case concluded last year when Lyon, 56, pleaded guilty to felony counts of electronic eavesdropping and served a portion of his one-year sentence in jail and in home detention. The prominent figure who once headed his family's real estate empire – and was active in philanthropic and social affairs – finished his sentence late last year under GPS monitoring of an ankle bracelet.

But Lyon's legal problems are far from over. The Sacramento man remains the target of at least two other civil suits by women who say they were secretly recorded while being paid to have sex with him.

Lyon's recordings with prostitutes ultimately became the focus of the criminal charges against him, because the acts occurred within the statute of limitations for prosecution.

The civil lawsuit brought by the eight plaintiffs – seven women and one young man – stated that some of their secret recordings dated back numerous years. The recordings, allegedly produced with cameras hidden in clocks and in holes in the walls and ceilings, were made at Lyon's Arden Arcade residence and a vacation home near Lake Tahoe.

According to court papers, Lyon generally denied knowledge of the specific recordings and his responses to the plaintiffs' accusations were vague.

"(Lyon) states that his mental and emotional condition is such that he has no recollection of participating in any of the acts ," according to one document filed earlier this year by the plaintiffs' attorney.

However, Lyon told The Bee in an interview in March 2011 that the criminal case descended on him because "I broke the law in digitally recording these people without permission."

He vowed to continue with therapy over behavior he described then as "impulsive."

The civil case appeared headed for trial Monday morning as seven of the eight plaintiffs appeared in court and sat together across the aisle from Lyon, who was seated alone and stared straight ahead at Superior Court Judge David De Alba.

The judge indicated he had agreed to identify the plaintiffs by their first names only and to protect their identities from both the jury and the general public.

Court papers state that Lyon's ex-wife, Kimarie Lyon, who was not named in the suit, became so distraught during the course of the legal action that her attorneys claimed she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Under questioning in January by the plaintiffs' lawyer, Lyon's ex-wife experienced "uncontrollable sobbing and emotional distress, and after about three hours, the deposition was terminated. But the damage was done," according to her lawyer, Matthew G. Jacobs, in an April 4 court filing.

Kimarie Lyon's deposition was halted, and the judge agreed to let her provide written answers.

Michael Lyon publicly cut his ties in September 2010 to the Sacramento real estate company his father founded more than 65 years ago. He is no longer listed on the company's website as a member of the executive leadership team.

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