Battle of the Band

Three of the four original members of 1990s rock band Third Eye Blind sat in federal court Friday listening to their battling lawyers describe the band’s dysfunctional relationship offstage and an equally dysfunctional legal relationship.

Former lead guitarist Tony Fredianelli has accused singer Stephan Jenkins and drummer Bradley Hargreaves of cheating him of $8 million in touring profits through allegedly unwarranted expenses taken from his share of the band’s earnings.  His earlier claims for royalty shares for songwriting were rejected by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, prior to trial.

“Jenkins treated members of the band as owners for touring but when it came to distributing the proceeds they were employees,” Joseph Singleton told the eight-member jury during closing arguments Friday.

He is Fredianelli’s lawyer and argued that Fredianelli was treated like a second-class citizen during band tours.  Jenkins allegedly refused to allow Fredianelli to bring his wife and children on tour and relegated Fredianelli to riding on the “roadie” bus, with the band’s technicians.

Fredianelli has maintained that from 2003 to 2009 he was a shareholder in the band, receiving 25 percent until 2007 when his share went up to 33 percent.  He was fired from the band in 2009.

But he contends Jenkins and Hargreaves added inappropriate expenses that drained the band’s income, which came largely from touring through those years.

Fredianelli disputed legal fees charged to the band, payments for equipment and alleged rental of a recording studio owned by Jenkins.  And the band’s deals were oral agreements, not written contracts, making the dispute even testier.

Jenkins’ lawyer, Mitchell Greenberg, countered that the issue for the jury was pretty simple.  “What was the profit sharing arrangement?  What was the deal?”

“This is not a case about ownership of Third Eye Blind.  It is for a share of the profits,” he said.

“To recover damages the plaintiff must prove that they entered into a contract,” he told jurors.  “You can’t manufacture an agreement out of nothing.”

Greenberg said Fredianelli never protested the expenses when they occurred, it was only later, when he filed the lawsuit.

“We don’t see a single email from Fredianelli asking why are you paying legal expenses out of touring revenue?” he said.

Third Eye Blind was known as an alternative rock band in the 1990s, with Fredianelli the band’s original lead guitarist in 1993.  He claims to be co-author of many of the band’s early hits, including “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Motorcycle Drive By” and “How’s It Going to Be,” from their first album, which sold six million copies.  All the song’s reached the Top 10 of U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

But during the 2000s the band made almost all its money from touring and little from recording and record sales, with long gaps between issuing new music.

The trial has lasted two weeks and jurors began deliberations at the close of arguments.

The three former colleagues, though sitting within a few feet of each other at opposing tables, made sure not to leave the courtroom together and never spoke.

Case:  Fredianelli v. Jenkins, No. 11-cv-3232EMC

 

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