Frank Ocean beat a $14.5 million libel suit from his estranged father, Calvin Cooksey, on Tuesday. After a day-long trial — which saw Ocean, his mother Katonya Breaux and Cooksey take the stand — as Law360 reports, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled that Cooksey hadn’t provided sufficient evidence of defamation.
The alleged evidence was a Tumblr post that Ocean wrote in June 2016, shortly after the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people. In the essay, Ocean recalled a childhood memory of being at a New Orleans restaurant with Cooksey when the latter called their transgender waitress an anti-gay slur, before dragging Ocean out of the restaurant because the waitress was "dirty."
“That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t,” Ocean wrote. He did not call out Cooksey by name, nor did Cooksey, who represented himself at the trial, produce anyone who saw the post and believed it was about him, argued Judge Wilson. Any claim for damages were therefore “speculative,” the judge said.
Cooksey filed his suit in February 2017, claiming that he tried to get Ocean to remove the post without any success. The former also argued in his complaint that the Tumblr post put him “in the middle of a terrorist attack on the gay community," as well as “ruined [Cooksey's] future financial opportunities in the film and music industries.”
According to a trial brief, Ocean argued not only that his post is substantially true, but also that Cooksey’s suit does not sufficiently provide a category of libel under which the post allegedly falls, nor does it show how Cooksey has been professionally injured.
Ocean swiftly left the courtroom after the verdict was read, and his attorney, Keith Bremer of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara LLP, told Law360 that the conclusion of the case was a welcome relief. “I’m happy he can put it behind him,” said Bremer.