Nicki Minaj and her lawyer are going after an opposing attorney who filed a lawsuit against the rapper last year, calling his behavior in the case “reprehensible” and “disgraceful” and demanding penalties against him.
The scathing new filing came in a lawsuit filed in August by Jennifer Hough against Minaj and her husband Kenneth Petty. Hough claimed Petty raped her decades earlier and that both of them had intimidated her not to speak out about it; Minaj and Petty have strongly denied the accusations and say Hough is trying to extract a settlement from wealthy celebrities.
But in January, Minaj was dropped from the case without explanation. Now, her attorney Judd Burstein wants severe legal sanctions against Tyrone Blackburn, one of the lawyers who repped Hough in her case.
“Mr. Blackburn’s conduct in this case has been disgraceful,”: Burstein wrote in a Monday filing. “He should be severely punished for it … so that, hopefully, other lawyers will understand that they have an obligation to their clients, the court, opposing counsel, and the legal profession itself not to pursue bad faith, frivolous, and indeed extortionate litigation in such a reprehensible manner.”
In a statement to Billboard on Tuesday, Blackburn strongly refuted the allegations, calling Burstein’s request for sanctions “baseless.”
Monday’s strongly-worded filing should not come as no surprise. When Minaj was dropped from the case in January, a leaked email showed Burstein telling Blackburn that he would “make you pay” for filing a lawsuit that allegedly drained Minaj of $300,000 in legal bills.
In the new filing, Burstein made good on that threat with accusations of a wide-range of misconduct against Blackburn. For instance, he said the opposing lawyer falsely claimed in legal documents that Minaj was a member of Queens street gang called the Makk Ballers – a move Burstein called “a bad faith effort to generate extremely negative media coverage.”
The filing also accused Blackburn of including false claims against Burstein himself, like a letter filed on a public court docket that accused Burstein of having a “sick obsession” with the wife of Steven Gordon, one of Hough’s former attorneys. Burstein called that claim “outrageous” and “designed solely to harass him and tar his reputation.”
“No lawyer should be permitted to walk away unscathed after making an allegation of this kind – especially because Mr. Blackburn knew that it would find its way into the public domain due to the media and other attention paid to the docket in this case,” Burstein wrote.
In terms of specific punishment, Minaj and Burstein want a ruling forcing Blackburn to repay legal bills incurred defending the case, as well as an order referring him to the court’s disciplinary committee for potential additional punishment.
In a response filing also lodged on Monday, Blackburn said he had evidence to support the disputed claims about Makk Ballers and Gordon, and made a variety of different allegations.
Hough sued last 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 in January, amid procedural wrangling over how the case should proceed, Hough voluntarily dismissed Minaj from the case without explanation. The accuser’s attorneys have threatened to re-file the case against her California, but do not appear to have done so.
In Monday’s filing, Burstein said that those threats make it even more important to punish Blackburn.
“He is arrogantly and incomprehensibly contending that his conduct in this case was appropriate,” Burstein wrote. “He should not be permitted to walk away from this Court believing that he is free to victimize Ms. Maraj a second time with the same baseless claims.”
The case against Petty is continuing, with Hough seeking a motion for a so-called default judgment against him over his alleged failure to respond quickly to the case. That motion is pending and awaiting a ruling by the judge.