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The Legal Beat: Cardi B’s Plea Deal – Plus Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent & More

Also in this week's recap, R. Kelly is convicted again, Warner sues Bang Energy over TikTok music, Jam Master Jay's alleged killers can't beat case, and more.

This is The Legal Beat, a weekly newsletter about music law from Billboard Pro, offering you a one-stop cheat sheet of big new cases, important rulings, and all the fun stuff in between.

This week: Cardi B has a busy week in both criminal and civil cases, Nicki Minaj takes action over a video calling her a “cokehead,” 50 Cent sues a doctor who allegedly implied that he had “penile enhancement” surgery, and much more.


THE BIG STORY: Cardi B’s Very Busy Legal Week

Over the span of 24 hours last week, Cardi B both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and demanded a gossip blogger fork over $4 million. What did you do last week?

On Thursday, the star rapper (real name Belcalis Almánzar) finally closed the book on a four-year-old criminal case stemming from a 2018 incident in which she and others were accused of hurling bottles and chairs at a bartender at a Queens strip club. Under a plea deal, she admitted to misdemeanor counts of assault and reckless endangerment; prosecutors dropped ten more counts, including two felony charges. As punishment, she’ll serve 15 days community service

“I’ve made some bad decisions in my past that I am not afraid to face and own up to,” she said in a statement following the hearing. “These moments don’t define me and they are not reflective of who I am now.” In her own statement following the plea, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said: “No one is above the law.”

Then on Friday, the star’s attorneys turned the screws on Tasha K – the YouTube gossip queen who is facing a $4 million defamation judgment over videos in which she made salacious claims about Cardi, including stuff about STDs, drug use and prostitution.

Tasha (real name Latasha Kebe) is currently appealing the verdict and has vowed to take the case “all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.” But Cardi’s lawyers said last week that regardless of how long the appeal takes, Tasha must put up the money now – either by paying the full sum immediately or posting a so-called supersedeas bond covering the entire amount. They said they were worried she might use the appellate delay to try to avoid eventually paying up.

“This is more than a hypothetical concern in this case,” Cardi’s lawyers wrote. “During the litigation, Kebe bragged publicly that she had taken steps to insulate herself from a judgment. And there have been recent online reports that Kebe has moved from Georgia to avoid enforcement of the judgment.”

What will Cardi get up to this week? We’ll keep you posted.

Other top stories this week…

MINAJ SUES OVER ‘COKEHEAD’ CLAIM – Echoing Cardi’s case against Tasha K, Nicki Minaj filed a defamation lawsuit against a social media persona called “Nosey Heaux” over a viral Twitter video in which the account allegedly called the rapper a “cokehead.” The lawsuit claimed that a woman named Marley Green was behind the video, which also purportedly included her saying the star was “shoving all this cocaine up her nose.” Minaj’s lawyers say the claim is false and that Green is a “disgrace”; Green’s lawyer says the case is “an act of retaliation” against his client over a separate grudge held by Minaj.

R. KELLY CONVICTED AGAIN – A federal jury convicted R. Kelly of several more sexual abuse charges, delivering another legal blow to a singer who used to be one of the biggest R&B stars in the world. Following a weeks-long trial in his hometown of Chicago, the singer was found guilty on three counts of child pornography, though he was acquitted of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008. His co-defendants, Derrell McDavid and Milton “June” Brown, were acquitted of all charges. The conviction follows Kelly’s guilty verdict in a separate case last summer on sex trafficking and racketeering charges, for which he was already sentenced to 30 years in prison.

MAGIC STICK? – 50 Cent sued a Florida doctor named Angela Kogan over allegations that she used an innocent photo with the rapper to falsely suggest that he’d had penile enhancement surgery. The rapper claims the image, snapped in 2020, has repeatedly been wrongly used to promote her plastic surgery business, but recently was used in a more “disturbing” post that suggested he’d had the particular surgery: “Jackson never had such a sexual enhancement procedure, he has never received plastic surgery from defendants, and he never consented to the commercialization and publication of the photo,” his lawyers wrote.

WARNER LATEST TO SUE BANG ENERGY OVER TIKTOK VIDS – Warner Music Group filed a lawsuit against Bang Energy, claiming the energy drink maker infringed the company’s copyrights on a “massive scale” by using nearly 200 different songs in promotional videos on TikTok and Instagram without proper licenses. The case from WMG closely mirrors similar lawsuits filed by Universal Music Group and Sony Music; both companies have won rulings in recent months that Bang infringed their music, setting the stage for potentially many millions in damages against the beverage company.

TORY LANEZ IN HOT WATER OVER ALLEGED ATTACK – The Chicago Police Department confirmed for Billboard that it’s investigating accusations that Tory Lanez assaulted singer August Alsina over the weekend. And the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that it, too, is looking into the incident, in which Alsina claims Lanez attacked him after he refused to shake his hand following a Chicago concert. The LA DA’s involvement is notable, since the alleged assault came as Lanez is free on bail while awaiting trial in LA over accusations that he shot Megan Thee Stallion.

JAM MASTER JAY’S ALLEGED KILLERS CAN’T DUCK CHARGES – A federal judge shot down arguments that prosecutors waited too long to charge Karl Jordan, Jr. and Ronald Washington with the murder Run-DMC‘s Jam Master Jay, clearing the way for a trial 20 years after the rap icon’s slaying. The pair had argued that the long delay (they weren’t charged until 2020 for his 2002 murder) meant they wouldn’t be able to properly defend themselves, since evidence would be gone and witnesses would not recall key events. But the judge ruled that those arguments were too “speculative” and vague to win the dismissal of the case. A trial is currently set for February.

BRITNEY’S DAD TAKES CASE TO APPEALS COURT – Britney Spears’ father Jamie filed an appeal seeking to depose his daughter, arguing he has a “fundamental right” to defend himself against her “serious allegations of personal wrongdoing.” The filing came after a lower judge refused to allow the sitdown, a ruling which he says deprived him of a fair shot to rebut her claims, which include allegations of illegal bugging, abusing his role as her conservator, and potentially violating federal laws. “The court denied Jamie access to any meaningful discovery necessary to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing, and thus it denied him due process.”