Stan Lee’s Ex-Manager Keya Morgan’s Criminal Charges Dismissed; Civil Case Hearing Date Set

On November 1, 2022, a judge declared a mistrial in a felony grand theft case against Keya Morgan, Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee’s former business manager and dismissed all three counts. If he had been convicted of grand theft for stealing $222,480 from Lee in May 2018, just months before his death at 95, Morgan could have been sentenced to nine years in prison. There is still a civil case pending.

After Joan “Joanie” Lee’s passing in 2017, reports started to swirl that the Marvel legend was being abused by those closest to him. At some point, the reports began to turn into more serious allegations, with Vanity Fair reporting in 2019 that Morgan had already been under investigation for a year by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles Police Department, and Bureau of Investigation. Indeed, Superior Court filings show that on June 13, 2018, a month after the alleged grand thefts occurred, a temporary restraining order was granted against Morgan that banned him from abusing, harassing, or contacting Lee and required him to stay at least 100 yards away.

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In May 2019, DA Jackie Lacey officially charged the documentary filmmaker with “one felony count of false imprisonment of an elder by use of fraud and deceit, three felony counts of grand theft from an elder of more than $950, and one misdemeanor count of elder abuse for knowingly and willfully inflicting mental suffering on the victim,” but dropped the charges of false imprisonment and elder abuse before trial. Morgan has always maintained he is innocent of all the allegations made against him, claiming that Lee’s daughter was the true culprit.

“This is a witchhunt by his daughter and her lawyer against me because she cannot stand the fact Stan likes me so much,” Morgan said when he was charged. “I will 100% prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the allegations against me are false. The truth will come out.”

Per Variety, the 12-person jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquitting Morgan after a two-and-a-half-week trial and two days of deliberation, leading Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli to declare a mistrial, excuse the jury, and dismiss the case altogether. “The defense showed somebody else besides my client got the cash,” said defense attorney Alex Kessel, referring to Morgan’s defense that Lee’s daughter stole the money from her late father. “Eleven of them saw that… I think the judge made the right call, so my client can continue with his life.”

Elder Abuse Can Be Difficult to Litigate

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“We are disappointed in the outcome of the case but appreciate that the jurors carefully reviewed the evidence and testimony,” LA District Attorney George Gascón told CNN in a statement. “I thank the trial team for their hard work and dedication on this challenging case.” According to the AARP, 1 in 10 Americans over age 60 are victims of elder abuse, which includes “physical violence, emotional torment, financial exploitation, and willful deprivation.” However, “elder-abuse cases are difficult to bring to trial, tough to litigate, and hard to win.”

In 2021, AARP published a piece about what Lee’s last days can teach people about elder abuse, reporting that there was still a “half-dozen” pending civil suits in addition to Morgan’s “criminal elder-abuse prosecution… mired in pretrial maneuverings.” And while Morgan made J.C. the star witness of his criminal trial, it appears that one of the half-dozen pending civil cases is a personal injury lawsuit brought by Lee’s daughter against “Keyarash Mazhari,” a.k.a. Keya Morgan, Joan Celia Lee v. Keyarash Mazhari et al.. The Los Angeles County Superior Court case management paperwork was last updated on October 10, 2022, with a hearing set for February 7, 2023.