Attorneys for Astroworld victims are duking it out in Houston court with attorneys for Travis Scott, in a battle revolving around whether the star himself should be subject to a gag order that’s been imposed on lawyers working on the massive case.
Lawyers for the family of a young boy killed at the festival say Scott is using the media – specifically the launch of a charitable initiative called Project HEAL, which was announced on Tuesday (March 8) – to try to win favor with potential jurors. Scott’s lawyers say his philanthropy is genuine and that adding him to the gag order would violate his right to free speech.
In the latest filing on Friday (March 11), attorneys for the 9-year-old victim, Ezra Blount, said Scott must be prevented from carrying out a “highly sophisticated marketing campaign” and a “tone-deaf attempt to shift the narrative.”
“They only ask the defendant Scott, and his full team, consider participating in good faith in the legal process, stop the continued attempts at media marketing and reputation repair, and just let the truth be discovered through the course of the judicial process,” they wrote.
The filings came amid a massive ongoing lawsuit over the Astroworld Festival, where a Nov. 5 crowd crush incident during Scott’s performance left 10 dead and hundreds injured. More than 2,800 concertgoers are suing Scott, Live Nation and other festival organizers, claiming they’re legally negligent in how they planned and conducted the event. The plaintiffs are seeking billions in potential damages.
When the cases were combined before a single judge last month – Judge Kristen Brauchle Hawkins – one of her first moves was to issue a so-called publicity order, barring attorneys involved in the lawsuit from talking about the case in ways that could potentially sway jurors.
On Wednesday, the Blount family’s attorneys filed an emergency motion demanding that Scott be added to that publicity order. In the motion, they cited widespread media coverage the day before of Project HEAL, a $5 million charitable initiative launched by Scott to, among other things, “address the safety challenges faced by future large-scale events.”
Blount’s family, repped by attorney Benjamin Crump, said the promotion around Project HEAL was “designed to gain goodwill” and to hurt the victims’ “ability obtain a fair trial in this case.” They said the gag order must apply to everyone involved in the case to ensure “a level playing field.”
Tony Buzbee, another prominent local attorney who represents scores more victims in the case, later filed a motion joining Crump’s petition and throwing his weight behind the motion to impose the gag order on Scott.
Scott’s attorneys fired back on Thursday, arguing that his philanthropic efforts had begun long before Astroworld – and that banning him from talking about them would violate his free speech rights under the First Amendment.
“Rather than welcome Mr. Scott’s continued commitment to charitable causes in Houston, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Blount decided to publicly disparage him,” wrote Daniel Petrocelli, Scott’s lead counsel. “Plaintiffs’ motion … is a transparent and vexatious effort to restrain parties like Mr. Scott from exercising their constitutional rights.”
That filing led to the strongly-worded reply that arrived on Friday, in which Crump accused Scott’s side of “faux-outrage” over being called out for their “highly sophisticated marketing campaign.”
“Though defendant Scott’s motion both lauds his own self-serving check writing, as well as personally attacks those lawyers hired to protect the victims who were left unprotected and dying at his concert, the family of the dead and injured will not be bullied into silence,” Crump wrote.
There is no timetable for when Judge Hawkins will rule on the motions.