Bill Maher
Bill Maher

Legally Incorrect

Anwar Zayden must have felt a cold shudder run down his spine when he read about the woman suing political comedian Bill Maher for palimony (not to be confused with a paternity suit; palimony is support from a former lover). Nancy "Coco" Johnsen sued Maher in Los Angeles, claiming the TV personality had convinced her to quit her career as a flight attendant, promised to buy her a house, and said he would financially sustain her forever. She wanted nine million dollars in damages. Maher countered he was a confirmed bachelor and made no such promises. This past May a judge tossed the case. Johnsen also accused Maher of assaulting her. This isn't the first time she's made such a claim, nor the first time her accusations were dismissed.

It turns out Johnsen is the woman New Times wrote about six years ago ("A South Beach Love Story," April 22, 1999) who accused Zayden of raping her after the two met while dining at China Grill and partied together at the Living Room. After a quick investigation, Miami Beach detective William Turner arrested Zayden, a flamboyant, wealthy playboy at the time (he's since become a solid citizen). The detective failed to uncover several exculpatory witnesses, including a cab driver who claimed he drove Johnsen home from Zayden's house and heard her complaining that Zayden didn't pay her any money, as well as others who saw the couple after the alleged rape and said she appeared tender toward him. It turned out to be a very costly arrest for the City of Miami Beach.

At one point another Miami Beach cop named Charlie Seraydar became convinced the investigation was being bungled and accused Turner of ignoring key evidence. Seraydar became so frustrated that after locating the cab driver, he directed him to Zayden's attorney. As a result, the department suspended Seraydar for 30 days.

Once all the witnesses came forward, prosecutors dropped the charges against Zayden.

Seraydar sued the department under the whistleblower statute, and Zayden sued the department for wrongful arrest. The city ended up settling with both men. The settlements are confidential but included undisclosed payments. Turner has since retired.


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