Stephen Baldwin's lawsuit against Kevin Costner goes to trial
Stephen Baldwin's lawsuit against Kevin Costner over investments he had made in technology developed by the actor's company has gone to trial.
The suit alleges that Costner cheated Balwin and his business partner, Spyridon C. Contogouris, out of their share of a multi-million dollar deal where British Petroleum bought devices which were used to help clean up BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Baldwin said the actor and a business partner duped him and Contogouris into selling shares in a firm that marketed centrifuges that separate oil from water, which were made by the Costner in Nevada Corporation, the Associated Press said. The oil leak was sealed in September.
Baldwin, who appeared in films such as "The Usual Suspects" and the reality show "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!," said he and Contogouris were excluded from a June 2010 business meeting attended by Costner, his partner Patrick Smith and a BP executive.
BP purchased 32 centrifuges and agreed to make a $18 million deposit on them to clean up over 4 million barrels of crude oil which spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest accidental oil spill in history.
Baldwin said that after being kept in the dark, he agreed to sell his shares for $1.4 million a few days later. He alleges in the lawsuit that Costner and the business partner "schemed" to use money from the deposit to buy his and his friend's shares, cheating them out of a portion of the $18 million deposit.
On the first day of the trial, Costner's attorney Wayne Lee said that said his client played no role in Baldwin and Contogouris' decision to sell their shares in the company.
"Kevin Costner is here for one reason and one reason only: He's famous," Lee said in opening statements. He also said that Costner, who lost roughly $20 million in an earlier effort to market the centrifuge technology to the oil and gas industry, decided to lobby BP to use the devices because he wanted to help protect the Gulf Coast from the monumental spill.
The plaintiffs' attorney James Cobb accused Costner and Smith of spinning a web of lies that cheated his clients out of millions of dollars. He went on to tell the eight jurors that the case is about deception "fueled by power and greed."
Smith's attorney said that Baldwin and Contogouris "hedged their bets" and sold their shares before BP committed to the deal.
"They want their cake and they want to eat it, too," Cheatwood said. "They want the money they had and they want the money they chose not to risk."
U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman warned the jurors that the actors' celebrity status should not affect their decision in the case.
Both Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Costner are expected to appear in court each day of the trial.