A woman who sued Nicki Minaj and her husband for allegedly harassing and intimidating her after she accused him of sexual assault has dropped her claims against the rapper – and the star’s attorney is already vowing to seek penalties for the “appalling” lawsuit.
Jennifer Hough sued Minaj and husband Kenneth Petty in August, leveling the extremely serious allegations that he had raped her decades earlier and then both of them had intimidated her not to speak out about it – claims that Minaj and Petty have strongly denied.
But on Wednesday (Jan. 12), Hough dropped Minaj from the case without explanation. The claims against Petty are still pending, and the filing only asked to have Minaj dropped “without prejudice,” meaning Hough could refile those claims whenever she wants.
When reached for comment, Hough’s attorney Tyrone Blackburn told Billboard: “The case against Nicki was voluntarily dismissed. The case against Kenneth Petty is still ongoing. Stay tuned!”
Judd Burstein, lead counsel for Minaj, declined to comment on the dismissal. But in email he sent earlier Wednesday to Hough’s attorneys that was obtained by Billboard from a source close to the case, Burstein vowed to seek reimbursement and sanctions over the “appalling” lawsuit.
“While [this] may be the end of your efforts to extort Nicki into a settlement, it is just the beginning of Nicki’s and my efforts to make you pay for your disgraceful conduct,” Burstein wrote in the email. “You forced my client to spend over $300,000 in fees to defend a case which even my Labradoodle, Gracie, could see was frivolous on both the facts and the law.”
In the same email, he blasted Hough’s team of attorneys as “bottom-feeding lawyers” and reveled that they had “surrendered” without “receiving a penny” from his client.
Hough sued in August, claiming that she had been raped by Petty in 1994 and then bullied into remaining quiet. She said she had been “traumatized her entire life” and then subjected to harassment by Minaj and Petty and their “allies, legal teams, and fans.”
“Nicki Minaj, directly and indirectly, reached out to plaintiff Hough’s family members to ensure plaintiff would recant her legitimate claim that defendant Petty raped her,” Hough wrote at the time.
But five months after those explosive claims were filed, little substantive litigation had taken place amid months of messy procedural wrangling.
First, attorneys for Hough accused Minaj and Petty of failing to respond to the case at all, and moved for a so-called default judgement against them – an automatic ruling in her favor. Attorneys for Minaj and Petty then responded that Hough hadn’t properly served the lawsuit and that such a default was inappropriate. They said the move for a quick win was more evidence that Hough had filed a “frivolous” lawsuit designed to extort a nuisance settlement from a wealthy couple.
“Believing that a celebrity with deep pockets, who is now married to Mr. Petty, would fear adverse publicity, plaintiff is attempting to extract money based on the 27 year old alleged incident,” Burstein wrote in the November filing. “Plaintiff’s improper rush to obtain a default judgment against Mr. Petty and avoid resolution of this action on the merits further demonstrates that plaintiff is well aware that her claims lack merit.”
In the wake of Minaj’s dismissal, Hough is still seeking a default judgment against Petty, who remains a defendant in the case. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Jan. 20, but it isn’t clear if it will be impacted by the dismissal of Minaj. And in his email, Burstein said he would seek sanctions as soon as Feb. 2.