Cardi B didn’t hold back when she took the witness stand Wednesday (Oct. 19) in a lawsuit claiming her sexually-suggestive album cover left a man “humiliated,” repeatedly sparring with an opposing attorney, requesting “receipts” and claiming her accuser is “harassing” her in hopes of scoring a settlement.
The rapper’s testimony came in an unusual case filed by Kevin Brophy, a California man who claims parts of his back tattoo was unwittingly photoshopped onto the cover of Cardi’s 2016 mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 to make it look like he was performing oral sex on the now-superstar.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Cardi and Brophy’s attorney, A. Barry Cappello, battled repeatedly. At two different points during their sparring, the judge dismissed the jurors from the courtroom to calm the bickering down. On the second dismissal, things got so heated that the judge told Cappello he had “totally crossed the line,” and even threatened to declare a mistrial after jurors had left the courtroom.
Earlier in the day, Brophy’s attorneys said they had sent the star a cease-and-desist seeking to have the image removed – prompting Cardi to fire back that the case was really about money, not changes to an album cover.
“This is not about taking anything down. Y’all have been harassing me for $5 million,” the star said to Cappello. Cardi later noted that the mixtape did not even earn that much, and her cut was even less.
The star also took exception to the suggestion that Brophy’s image on the cover had somehow contributed to her meteoric success over the past decade – a key part of his legal case against her. She said she had been “working my ass off [for] two kids” and that it’s “really insulting to me as a woman that a man is claiming responsibility.”
Released in 2016, the cover image of Gangsta Bitch certainly raised eyebrows. In it, the then-rising star is seen taking a swig of a large beer, staring directly into the camera with her legs spread wide and holding a man’s head while he appears to perform oral sex on her.
The actual man in the image was a model who had consented to the shoot, but a giant tattoo on the man’s back belonged to Brophy. Unbeknownst to Cardi, a freelance graphic designer had typed “back tattoos” into Google Image, found one that fit (Brophy’s), and Photoshopped it onto the model’s body. It apparently didn’t occur to him that he would need anyone’s approval to do so.
Brophy sued in 2017 for millions in damages, claiming he was “devastated, humiliated and embarrassed” by the cover. He says Cardi and others violated his so-called right of publicity by using his likeness without his consent, and also violated his right to privacy by casting him in a “false light” that was “highly offensive.”
Cardi’s legal team has argued those accusations are “sheer fantasy” and “vastly overblown” – and that Brophy is just suing her in an effort to “cash in the legal equivalent of a lotto ticket.” Her legal team says nobody would have recognized a relatively unknown man based merely on his back, and that he has little proof anyone did.
The trial kicked off on Tuesday, when Brophy testified that Cardi’s “raunchy” image had caused severe stress on his life. He called it a “complete slap in the face” that had caused him “hurt and shame.”
But at Wednesday’s hearing, Cardi pointed out from the witness stand that the model in the image was “a Black man that’s fit” who has hair. Brophy is white with a shaved head.
“It’s not Mr. Brophy’s back. It doesn’t look like Mr. Brophy at all,” she told Cappello. “There has been not one receipt he has provided in the court claiming, ‘Hey, that’s you on Cardi’s mixtape.'”
Wednesday’s proceedings also featured testimony by Brophy himself and his wife, as well as Cardi’s former manager Klenord “Shaft” Raphael. Testimony will continue on Thursday, with a verdict expected on Friday.