Courtney Love, San Diego law firm in court over tweet

LOS ANGELES - Courtney Love set out to deliberately damage an attorney's reputation after the woman refused to resume her representation of the singer-actress in a dispute concerning the estate of her late husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, a lawyer told a jury Wednesday.

In his opening statement in trial of a defamation lawsuit brought by Rhonda Holmes and the San Diego-based law firm of Gordon & Holmes, plaintiffs' lawyer Barry Langberg said Love made a direct statement on Twitter and later insinuated in an online interview that Holmes was bribed to leave her case.

"It was a concerted effort by Ms. (Love) to destroy Ms. Holmes and her law firm," Langberg said.

But Love's attorney, John Lawrence, said his client thought she was tweeting to only two people and that she never referred to Holmes by name in the interview she did later. He also said Love genuinely believed Holmes abandoned her.

Ms. (Love) believed Ms. Holmes was compromised in some fashion," Lawrence told the jury, which is being asked to examine whether someone can be defamed in a tweet.

Holmes and her firm sued Love in May 2011 over a June 2010 tweet that said Holmes was "bought off." Love also was quoted in the online article a month later saying that a female attorney had stopped taking her calls because "they got to her ... she's disappeared," according to the plaintiffs' court papers.

According to the lawsuit, Gordon & Holmes represented Love from December 2008 to May 2009 in her claims against attorneys, accountants and others whom she alleged stole money and property from her late husband.

According to Langberg, Love wanted to get the word out about her pending lawsuit against those who she claimed had looted her late husband's estate.

"Ms. (Love) wanted publicity for this case," Langberg said.

An article eventually appeared in the New York Post that stated Love's case would target people who by comparison would "make Bernie Madoff look warm and fuzzy," he said.

Love eventually produced numerous boxes of documents ostensibly supporting her claim involving the Cobain estate, Langberg said. But without warning and before the complaint could be filed, Love decided to remove Holmes from her case and pursue it instead with Los Angeles lawyer Keith Fink, Langberg said.

"She (Holmes) was devastated when she was terminated," Langberg said.

Langberg said Holmes knows the tweet by Love was received at the very least by one major news organization and that she worries just how much damage may have been done to her reputation.

But Lawrence said Love never intended to fire her and that Fink was hired for another legal matter. He said Love expected Holmes would move forward with the action involving the Cobain estate.

"She (Love) was left bereft by the plaintiffs," Lawrence said.

In brief testimony Wednesday, Love said she did not fire Holmes, but added, "In my mind I let her go."

Love, 49, denied she contradicted herself when on the one hand she said she wanted to file the case involving her late husband's estate for the benefit of their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, but that she never intended for Holmes to represent her offspring.

"Doing it for my daughter, (but) representing me," Love said.

Love said Holmes told her she was unable to file a complaint on her behalf because of computer issues.

"She told me they couldn't, they were getting hacked," Love said.

Judge Michael Johnson ended the day's proceedings about 10 minutes early after Love asked for a break and Langberg said he needed to locate some documents.

"That was scary," Love said as she stepped down from the witness stand.

Love agreed in March to settle the case for $600,000 and issue a retraction, according to a sworn declaration by Holmes. Despite the firm's concession to Love to extend the deadline for her to pay, she failed to comply, according to Holmes.

"Instead, ... Love went onto the 'Howard Stern Show' and claimed on-air that she had paid $600,000 to settle the case and then republished her defamatory comments," according to Holmes.

Both sides agreed not to tell jurors the amount Love allegedly agreed to pay before the settlement unraveled.

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