Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 11, 2014

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Rockstar Games, the studio behind the smash hit Grand Theft Auto V, has been hit with a lawsuit filed by former Mob Wives star Karen Gravano, daughter of notorious Gambino family turncoat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. Karen Gravano alleges that developers based the character of Antonia Bottino on her, and has filed suit seeking $40 million in damages. The suit also names Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.

The Real Antonia Bottino

Grand Theft Auto V Video Game LawsuitIn the GTA V, the character of Antonia Bottino is the daughter of fictional crime boss Sammy “Sonny” Bottino, who eventually becomes an informant. Popular opinion is that Sammy Bottino is, in fact, based upon Sammy Gravano. Antonia Bottino is a damsel-in-distress who is buried alive and subsequently rescued by the game’s main character. Post-rescue, Antonia fills the main character (and the player) in on her sordid past, including her father’s status as a mobster framed for murder and his subsequent deal with the authorities. Bottino’s father also has issues with his daughter’s appearances on fictional in-game reality show Wise Bitches, an obvious parody of VH1’s Mob Wives, in which Karen Gravano starred for a period of time.

The suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by attorney Thomas Farinella, claims that Gravano has the “utmost respect” for Rockstar but “her story is unique and hers to tell.” The suit claims permission for the use of Gravano’s image and life story could have been obtained “with relative ease,” foregoing the need for legal action.

Real or Fiction – No Lawsuit Here

While refusing to comment on the pending legal action, Rockstar Games has since filed a response to Gravano’s suit. Pointing to a body of case law establishing that “life stories” are not afforded protection under the law as well as arguing that a studio producing a “work of fiction” cannot be sued “merely because the actual experiences of the living person had been similar to the events narrated,” Rockstar is asking the court to dismiss the suit. Rockstar also addressed allegations that the character resembled Gravano in appearance, invoking the protections offered by the concepts of caricature and parody. Lindsay Lohan leveled similar accusations at Rockstar in late 2013, threatening to file suit over the unauthorized use of “her likeness.” Lohan’s case was, arguably, weaker than Gravano’s (which is by no means air tight) and the actress still hasn’t filed suit.

Rockstar’s Announcements at E3

The publicity hasn’t hurt Rockstar or Grand Theft Auto V, which made $1 billion in sales during its first three days on the shelves. On the eve of the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Rockstar announced that Grand Theft Auto V would be coming to next-generation video game platforms and PC this fall, expanding the game’s user base even further. A ruling on Rockstar’s motion to dismiss Gravano’s case is forthcoming.