Bruce Lehrmann wrote the names of two major actors on a blue notebook that was seized by police: those of Geoffrey Rush and John Jarratt, both men who sued after being hounded by the media.
The former political staffer is suing Channel 10 and news.com.au for defamation over reports they aired in March 2021 where Brittany Higgins alleged she had been raped at Parliament House in 2019 by an unidentified man: him.
During Lehrmann’s cross-examination on Thursday, Ten’s host Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou, referred to a page in a blue notebook she kept in March 2021, titled “Affair Higgins.”
She said there was a page in the book that had the name ‘Wilkinson’ written with a horizontal line and two hyphens coming out of it: one hyphen read ‘Rush’ and the other read ‘Jarratt’.
Both John Jarratt and Geoffrey Rush retained Ms Chrysanthou in 2021 and 2020, respectively, to represent them in libel cases similar to Mr Lehrmann’s.
Both actors were charged with sexual misconduct: Jarratt was charged with rape and found not guilty by a jury; while Rush was accused of being sexually inappropriate with a colleague, each suing the media for publishing the allegations.
Speaking of Jarratt, the Wolf Creek star, Ms Chrysanthou told Mr Lehrman: “Did you know that he sued you for defamation, despite being accused?”
Bruce Lehrmann is pictured outside Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, where he entered the witness box in court for the first time.
Australian actors Geoffrey Rush (left) and John Jarratt (right) were named in Bruce Lehrmman’s Blue Notebook.
Mr. Lehrmann responded: “I was aware of your case, but you were not charged.”
Ms Chrysanthou said: “I want to suggest to you that the reason you put (Rush’s) name on there was because you sued for libel within a week.”
Mr. Lehrmann replied: ‘Not within a week.’
He then explained that he intended to sue for defamation at the time, but said that he did not have the financial ability to pay for a defamation lawyer.
Ms Chrysanthou asked: ‘You don’t have the financial capacity now to pursue libel proceedings, do you?’
Judge Lee objected to that question and withdrew it.
Instead, he asked: You had no idea if you could get lawyers without paying them, right? For defamation proceedings.
“You had in mind to file a defamation case in March 2021, right?” She continued.
Mr Lehrmann, who seemed visibly uncomfortable, said “that was on my mind”, before explaining that he was advised not to start a civil matter at the time.
Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou (pictured), questioned Bruce Lehrmann on Thursday
Bruce Lehrmann (pictured, center, Thursday) fabricated a version of what was happening in a meeting with his lawyer for the sake of his girlfriend, Greta Sinclair, the Federal Court heard.
An evening in which Lehrmann “overflowed his heart” with his lawyer over a glass of Scotch and drunkenly sent desperate text messages to his then-girlfriend was at the center of an interim hearing on Thursday.
On February 15, 2021, Lehrmann sat down with his lawyer Warwick Korn in his Sydney office and became enraged when Higgins accused him of raping her.
Lehrmann’s girlfriend at the time, Greta Sinclair, was distraught over the extraordinary televised allegations.
He placated her by sending her messages suggesting her lawyer had told her he was a “pawn” and “part of a larger political hatchet job.”
During further questioning Thursday, Lehrmann admitted to Ten’s attorney, Matthew Collins KC, that Korn never said that.
Text messages surfaced in which Lehrmann told Sinclair he was having a “glass of scotch” in Korn’s office while awaiting Lisa Wilkinson’s interview with Higgins on the current affairs show.
“If they name me tonight, I’m running for millions in defamation… (Mr. Korn) said I won’t see the light of a court,” he said.
Later that night, at 10:02 p.m., he sent Ms. Sinclair another message saying, “He (Mr. Korn) is still taking notes though, he’s very professional.”
While being questioned in court, Lehrmann admitted that Korn was not, in fact, taking notes during their conversation and insisted that he just wanted Sinclair to feel good.
‘I wanted her to think I had my house in order.’
Lehrmann sent a series of messages to his then-girlfriend Greta Sinclair after the allegations against him (pictured) were aired. She later told the court that most of them were ‘manufactured’ to ‘pacify’ her because she was upset.
Dr. Collins suggested that the meeting with Mr. Korn was “not at all professional” because “you were there pouring your heart out and drinking Scotch” and “Mr. Korn wasn’t taking notes.”
Mr Lehrmann admitted: ‘It wasn’t. Not that I remember, no.
The following day, Mr Lehrmann checked into the Royal North Shore Hospital for psychiatric treatment, where he was placed under ’30 minute’ observation. He told the hospital that he had been “quite intoxicated” the night before.
He then voluntarily checked into a mental health facility and stayed there for 12 days.
Lehrmann was not named in the Channel 10 broadcast or the news.com.au article, but his claim statement argues that his identity would have become known in political circles.
While not mentioned in Wilkinson’s interview with Higgins (the couple pictured above after their interview with the Project), Lehrmann’s claim statement argues that his identity would have become known in political circles.
Lehrmann’s interlocutory hearing on Thursday was about why it took him two years to file the defamation suit.
Applicants normally have 12 months after publication to file a defamation case, but Mr. Lehrmann’s case was filed two years later.
His lawyers argued that it was unreasonable for him to start the case earlier.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the broadcaster and the news website argued that he should not be allowed to sue for defamation because it was reasonable for him to file the lawsuit within the first year.
The hearing was adjourned until Thursday, March 23.