Warner Bros. Attorney: Charlie Sheen's 'Moral Turpitude' Was Grounds For Firing

Warner Bros. Attorney: Charlie Sheen's 'Moral Turpitude' Was Grounds For Firing

LOS ANGELES - Facing the threat of litigation from Charlie Sheen and his lawyer, the attorney for Warner Bros. Television said in a letter that the "Two and a Half Men" stars' "moral turpitude," which includes furnishing cocaine to others, was one of many reasons it was justified in firing TV's highest-paid actor per episode.

 Charlie Sheen 

"The Warlock," as Sheen has taken to calling himself, was fired March 7 from the highest-rated sitcom after months of increasingly bizarre behavior, including reports of alcohol and cocaine binges and abusive remarks aimed at the show's co-creator and executive producer, Chuck Lorre. The show airs on CBS

The actions by Sheen, 45, who reportedly makes $1.8 million to $2 million per episode of "Men," caused CBS to stop production on the show's remaining four episodes on Feb. 24. An additional four episodes were shelved when Sheen entered rehab in January. Show producers have not said whether they plan to continue the series next year without Sheen, who had a contract running through the end of the 2012 season. 

After being fired, Sheen was asked by The Associated Press in a text if he planned to sue.  

"Big," Sheen texted back. 

TMZ.com posted an 11-page March 7 letter from Warner Bros. attorney John W. Spiegel of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP to Sheen's attorney, Martin D. Singer of Lavely & Singer, in response to Singer's correspondence dated Feb. 28 and March 2. 

"At the outset, let us state the obvious: Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill," Spiegel wrote.  "For months before the suspension of production, Mr. Sheen's erratic behavior escalated while his condition deteriorated. His declining condition undermined the production in numerous and significant ways. Now, the entire world knows Mr. Sheen's condition from his alarming outbursts over just the last few weeks. Warner Bros., CBS, and Chuck Lorre have done everything within their power to get Mr. Sheen the help he so badly and obviously needs - entreating his family and representatives; visiting him at home; offering to rearrange production schedules to accommodate his treatment; and even making an airplane available to take him to a rehabilitation clinic before he reneged on his commitment to enter such a facility." 

Spiegel said Warner Bros. took the "only responsible action open to it - morally and legally - in these painful circumstances." 

"Warner Brothers would not, could not, and should not attempt to continue 'business as usual' while Mr. Sheen destroys himself as the world watches," Spiegel wrote. "Your response to the actions taken by those who have tried to save Mr. Sheen is eight pages of diatribe and threats of litigation. Much of your tirade is directed at Mr. Lorre, who ironically has worked tirelessly trying to convince Mr. Sheen to seek help before he self-destructed."  

What follows is several pages detailing "Mr. Sheen's Deteriorating Condition And Escalating Erratic Conduct," beginning with his very public divorce from actress Denise Richards and the "inflammatory" court documents filed by Richards, through reports of drug-fueled binges in Aspen, Colo., in December 2009 and the Plaza Hotel in New York in October 2010. Spiegel said the situation "took a dramatic turn for the worse" in January and February, when "Mr. Sheen's statements, conduct and condition prevented him from performing his essential duties and so undermined the ability of Warner Bros. and Mr. Lorre to produce the Show that suspensions and termination were required."  

Spiegel said when Warner Bros. negotiated Sheen's contract dated May 17, 2010, Sheen had entered a rehabilitation center for professional treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Regrettably, Spiegel wrote, Sheen failed to continue with the rehabilitation program. 

After Sheen was rushed by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 27 from his Mulholland Estates home, the star said he was "banging seven gram rocks [of cocaine] and finishing them. That's the way I roll." Spiegel said this confirmed suspicions that Sheen was in full relapse for his addictions. 

Spiegel denied Singer's assertion that Sheen was turning in "brilliant" performances on the show despite his lifestyle. 

"Not true," Spiegel wrote. "As outtakes of the filming show, Mr. Sheen had difficulty remembering his lines and hitting his marks. His conduct and condition created substantial tensions on the set. Mr. Sheen conceded in one or more of his numerous recent interviews that he sometimes showed up to work after not having slept and needed to move his mark to accommodate his need to 'lean' on something, for balance. These few examples all confirm Mr. Sheen's rapid physical and mental deterioration resulting in a failure to perform his essential duties." 

Spiegel then cites a litany of "bizarre" remarks made by Sheen, including personal attacks on Lorre and his claim that he has "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA" and that he's "tired of pretending that I'm not a totally bitchin' rock star from Mars." 

Spiegel wrote that Sheen's agreement with Warner Bros. gave Warner the "absolute right to suspend or terminate production," and that Warner Bros is not required to pay Sheen for episodes "that his condition and conduct caused to be canceled," as Singer has said. Spiegel said Warner Bros. is entitled to suspend Sheen's employment due to his "incapacity" under Section 12 of the Standard Terms and Conditions.  

"'Incapacity' is defined in the Agreement as including (but not limited to) 'any physical or mental disabilities, which due to the unique nature of Performer's Obligations, are not subject to reasonable accommodation and which render Performer unable to perform the essential duties of Performer's position. . .,' Spiegel wrote. "'Examples of Incapacity include, but are not limited to, ' . . . any material change in Performer's appearance or other attributes.' The facts establish that there was a serious material change in Mr. Sheen's attributes that rendered him unwilling or unable to perform his essential duties. As the lead actor in a successful television comedy, Mr. Sheen's essential duties encompass more than just showing up and delivering lines. One essential duty is working cooperatively and creatively with the other persons critical to the production. Mr. Sheen went from an actor who performed those duties to an individual whose self-destructive conduct resulted in his hospitalization, his inability to work at all for a period and the rapid erosion of the cooperative and creative process necessary to produce the Show." 

Under Section 13 of the contract, Spiegel said, Sheen may not fail, refuse or neglect to "perform all of his material obligations to the best of his ability," but it is clear that his inability to do that has adversely affected the show's production. Sheen's refusal to work on next season's show unless there were "radical changes" constitutes and immediate default under Section 13 (b) of the contract, Spiegel asserts. He said Warner Bros. also has the right to terminate the contract because of an uncured incapacity or "serious health condition" that lasts for more than 10 consecutive days of 15 days total over a single production year. 

He refutes Singer's assertion that there is no morals clause of any kind in the contract, pointing to Section 19, which says that if the producer "believes Performer has committed an act which constitutes a felony offense involving moral turpitude under federal, state or local laws, or is indicted or convicted of any such offense, Producer shall have the right to delete the billing provided for in this Agreement from any broadcast or any such uses which are thereafter made of the episode(s) in which the Performer appears." 

"There is ample evidence supporting Warner Bros. reasonable good faith opinion that Mr. Sheen has committed felony offenses involving moral turpitude (including but not limited to furnishing of cocaine to others as part of the self-destructive lifestyle he has described publicly) that have 'interfere[d] with his ability to fully and completely render all material services required' under the Agreement," Spiegel wrote. 

Spiegel said Sheen's conduct constitutes breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference with Warner Bros.' contracts with third parties. He said Warner Bros. has lost 10 episodes of the show - two last year and eight this year - because of Sheen. 

Attached to Spiegel's letter is a 10-page list of Sheen media coverage since Feb. 24, with titles such as "Charlie Sheen: Apocalypse Now" in People magazine and "The Sad, Strange Decline of Charlie Sheen" in Entertainment Weekly

Singer said that Spiegel's claims "are totally specious, absurd" and that the actor has completed his rehab and is drug-free, taking drug tests twice a week. 

To TMZ.com, Sheen said: 

"They continue to be in breach, like so many whales.  It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at whatshis---- [presumably, Lorre] again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension." 

On his live Internet show, "Sheen's Korner," Sheen on March 8 lashed out at CBS and Warner executives, saying his dismissal from the show was "unconscionable," the AP reported.

CBS News on March 8 showed footage of Sheen standing on the roof of the Beverly Hills, Calif., office of entertainment conglomerate Live Nation, waiving a machete and drinking red liquid from a bottle labeled "Tiger Blood." 

"Free at last!," he said after coming down from the building.