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July 25, 2014

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Wranglers’ Billy Johnson: ‘I was assaulted’ by Las Vegas magician Seth Grabel

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Billy Johnson

Las Vegas Wranglers President Billy Johnson and his wife, Erica, show off their tickets to see Springsteen in Zurich.

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Seth Grabel

As Las Vegas magician Seth Grabel basks in the blush of his heavily publicized wedding at the Grammy Awards and Billy Johnson closes in on a new home for the Las Vegas Wranglers, a legal entanglement involving the two has surfaced.

Johnson, the Wranglers president, is involved in a civil case against Grabel, and at one point a 30-day temporary restraining order was issued against the Las Vegas-based magician.

An aggressive self-promoter, Grabel has made a splash over the past couple of weeks with his marriage to Las Vegas Woman magazine Publisher Tammy Shaw. The two were wed in a ceremony at the Grammys on Jan. 25. Queen Latifah officiated the service, which involved 33 gay and straight couples who were wed to “Same Love,” the same-sex marriage anthem performed by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

But long before that wedding took place, in January 2010, Grabel was involved in an incident where he allegedly jumped Johnson outside Harmon Theater. At the time, Grabel, a magician who appeared on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and has for years attempted to find a residency on or off the Strip, was appearing with The Amazing Johnathan at Harmon Theater. And Johnson was dating Grabel’s ex-girlfriend and Johnathan’s onstage assistant, Erica Vanlee, to whom Johnson is now married.

The incident unfolded on a sidewalk near the theater after a performance by Johnathan. Johnson suffered a broken right wrist and damage to his left wrist; both injuries will require surgery. Johnson has since filed a civil suit against Grabel for undefined monetary damages related to those injuries. Vanlee was deposed last Tuesday in Las Vegas in that case, which is continuing. (The criminal case against Grabel has reportedly been settled and those documents sealed.)

“It is true I was assaulted by Mr. Grabel following his stage show, which resulted in multiple injuries,” Johnson said in a text message tonight. “With civil proceedings underway, I prefer not to comment on the circumstances at this time.”

Johnson obtained a 30-day restraining order against Grabel in December 2012. The Las Vegas Justice Court document required that Grabel was to remain 100 feet or more away from Johnson and Vanlee unless they were appearing at the same court appointment. The court’s action was taken after an episode in November 2012, as Johnson and Grabel were in a Las Vegas restaurant at the same time and Grabel (according to Johnson) began recording video of Johnson on his phone and followed him out of the business and to his car.

Reached on the phone tonight, Grabel, who appeared on Bravo's "Millionaire Matchmaker" last April, said he needed to speak with his attorney before making any comment about the civil case or the action taken by Johnson.

“This is the first time you’ve called me,” Grabel said, apparently in reference to an absence of coverage in this column. “That’s really sad.”

Fallout from the wedding of Grabel and Shaw has been a media push by Las Vegas Food & Beverage Magazine Publisher Michael Politz, who dated Shaw for about a year before she became involved with Grabel.

That yearlong relationship ended in April, though Politz says he remained in regular contact with Shaw up until the day she was married and tried to reconcile their relationship.

No fan of Grabel or his marriage, Politz this afternoon said, “Tammy and I were together for a year. I am so hurt that she allowed me to be blindsided by this.”

Politz has since been in contact with Las Vegas and national media outlets, including TMZ, to tell his side of the story. It has become a saga as complex as any of Grabel’s tricks.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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