Cardi B’s $4M Defamation Verdict Against Tasha K Upheld By Appeals Court
The gossip blogger had argued the verdict was caused by "lopsided" evidence in favor of the rap superstar, but a federal appeals court was unswayed.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Cardi B’s $4 million defamation verdict against a gossip blogger who made salacious claims on YouTube about drug use, STDs and prostitution.
In a five-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected an appeal from Tasha K, who had claimed that the massive verdict against her was the result of “very lopsided presentation of evidence to the jury.”
The appeals court ruled that Tasha K (real name Latasha Kebe) had failed to properly make that argument to the trial judge, meaning she forfeited the right to do so before an appeals court.
“Defendant Latasha Kebe asks for a new trial, saying that there was insufficient evidence for the jury verdict against her,” the appeals court wrote. “But as she all but admits, she didn’t make either of the required post-verdict motions in the district court.”
Tasha’s attorneys had also argued that the judge overseeing the trial withheld key evidence that might have helped her beat Cardi’s accusations, but the Eleventh Circuit rejected that argument, too.
“She never tells us where in the 5500-page record the district court’s alleged errors can be found,” the appeals court wrote. “Because Kebe’s brief falls well short of what we require, she has abandoned this argument.”
In a statement to Billboard, Cardi’s attorneys Lisa Moore and Andrew Pequignot praised the court’s ruling: “We’re obviously pleased that the Eleventh Circuit has affirmed the jury’s unanimous and important verdict, which we believe was more than amply supported by the evidence presented in the case.”
Tasha’s attorney did not return a request for comment.
Cardi B (real name Belcalis Almánzar) sued Tasha in 2019, over what the rapper’s lawyers called a “malicious campaign” on social media and YouTube aimed at hurting Cardi’s reputation. The star’s attorneys said they had repeatedly tried – and failed – to get her to pull her videos down.
One Tasha video cited in the lawsuit includes a statement that Cardi had done sex acts “with beer bottles on f—ing stripper stages.” Others videos said the superstar had contracted herpes; that she had been a prostitute; that she had cheated on her husband; and that she had done hard drugs.
Following a trial in January, jurors sided decisively with Cardi B, holding Tasha liable for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They awarded more than $2.5 million in damages and another $1.3 million in legal fees incurred by the rapper. Judge William Ray later issued an injunction forcing her to pull the videos from the internet.
Tasha appealed that verdict last summer, arguing in her opening appellate brief that Judge Ray withheld key details from jurors and the verdict was the result of a “very lopsided” trial. She’s vowed to keep fighting the case “all the way to the Supreme Court if need be,” even if it “takes years” to do so.
Following Tuesday’s decision, a trip to the Supreme Court would be the procedural next step, but it’s unclear if Tasha will actually do so. The high court hears only a tiny fraction of the cases it is sent, and Tasha’s appeal does not likely present the kind of close questions that the justices typically want to tackle.
The status of the $4 million damages award is also unclear. In September, Cardi’s attorneys warned Judge Ray that Tasha might use the delay caused by her appeals to avoid paying.
“This is more than a hypothetical concern in this case,” Cardi’s lawyers wrote at the time. “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.”
A month later, Judge Ray ruled that Tasha would need to either immediately pay Cardi B, or secure a bond covering the entire amount while she appeals. It’s unclear if she ever did either.