Latest twist in 2008 Oteri death comes via breach of contract suit

Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:06pm

Thomas Oteri Jr. thought he’d carry on his late father’s legacy by starting a music publishing company with Richard Fagan, the man once charged with killing Oteri’s father, and Bridgette Fox, a former acquaintance of the elder Oteri.

But now, Fox has sued Oteri Jr. and Fagan, accusing them of breaching a contract, which she claims entitled her to royalties and other income produced by the publishing company, Broadminded Music.

The lawsuit asks for nearly $30,000 and a cut of profits, as well as $100,000 in damages related to misappropriation and fraud.

Fagan made headlines in April 2008 after being charged in connection to the killing of Gaetno Thomas Oteri, the father of Saturday Night Live star Cheri Oteri, in Nashville. Fagan allegedly got drunk and sliced Gaetano Thomas Oteri across the wrist with a knife. Police later pulled Fagan over and charged him with driving under the influence, only later to charge him with homicide after Oteri was found dead.

The coroner’s investigation did not determine a cause of death for Oteri, stating that he didn’t directly die as a result from the stabbing but rather from a combination of factors. The charge against Fagan was downgraded to aggravated assault.

After Fagan underwent rehabilitation for alcoholism, the district attorney’s office dropped the charge against him because evidence from the scene indicated he may have acted in self defense. Fagan, who expressed remorse over Oteri’s death, entered into business with Oteri Jr.

“I wanted to keep the business going for my kids, and Rich’s songs are really good and I know [the death of his father] was an accident,” Oteri Jr. told The City Paper. “So I started a new company called Broadminded Music that my dad was working on before he passed.”

Oteri Jr. didn’t know much about the music business, so he enlisted Fox, a former friend of the elder Oteri, to help run Broadminded’s business operations.

“The girl said, ‘Well, I want to push the music, too.’ And she’s pretty and she can get in the doors of all the Nashville people,” Oteri, Jr. said. “So I said ‘OK, let’s see if we can push the songs.’ ”

Broadminded Music owns the rights to a catalog of Fagan’s songs, including recordings by Neil Diamond, George Strait and John Michael Montgomery.

Fox claims she joined as a member of the company in May 2009 and entered into an agreement that gave her an equal one-third cut of royalties and other income.

The suit alleges that Fox provided marketing, office and business management, and public relations efforts in the wake of Fagan’s criminal charges.

The suit states, “Fox served as Fagan’s de facto manager, developing and executing an extensive public relations campaign in Nashville to re-establish Rich Fagan’s reputation in the music industry.”

Oteri Jr. told The City Paper, however, that troubles arose when Fox demanded proceeds from all of Fagan’s previous songs. He said he was under the impression that Fox would receive a cut of future profits from the company, not royalty kickbacks.

“When we sat down together and made this agreement — they know the agreement was for anything we cut after my dad’s passing. The royalties from before does not go to her, it goes to me and my family,” Oteri Jr. said.

In late 2010, Fagan notified Fox that she was being removed from the company, according to the lawsuit. Following her ouster, Fox’s counsel negotiated a settlement agreement that provided Fox with a cut of future royalties.

But Fox claims she hasn’t received any money from the settlement agreement, leading her to file the suit against Oteri Jr. and Fagan for breach of contract.

Fox’s attorney, Laura Merritt of Waller, declined to comment on the case.    

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