Grammy-nominated rapper/songwriter Belly (aka Ahmad Balshe) has filed suit against Coachella Music Festival, festival organizer Goldenvoice and security company IPS for injuries he suffered during an attack at the festival in 2018, according to court documents filed Wednesday. The complaint was first reported by TMZ.
On April 20, 2018, Belly claims he was attacked by up to 25 unnamed Coachella security guards (who are named as “Doe” defendants) while attempting to access a VIP area backstage during a performance by his XO Records label-mate and collaborator The Weeknd on the festival’s main stage. In the suit filed in California Superior Court, the rapper says he had “all necessary credentials” to access the VIP area and that the attack was entirely unprovoked.
“The sickening and unprovoked brutal assault on Belly by Coachella security is disturbing on so many levels,” said Belly’s lawyer Ben Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos in a statement provided to Billboard. “We will hold all those involved accountable in court, and deliver justice for Belly, and make sure this lawsuit prevents other artists and fans from being victimized by this type of outrageous and violent behavior.”
Belly alleges that the guards “repeatedly grabbed, punched, kicked, and choked him in a coordinated manner” and that he was left with “severe injuries to his face, teeth, jaw, eyes, head, ribs, chest, arms, and legs, as well as neurological damage.” He further claims he was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder stemming from the attack, which was caught on video.
Among other accusations, the complaint alleges Coachella, Goldenvoice and IPS exercised direct involvement in decisions to “hire, fire and retain…security guards” for the event and had a role in supervising them. The companies are accused of encouraging security staff to engage in “overly aggressive and hostile” tactics towards festival goers and artists while failing to address unspecified prior incidents of violence. They are additionally accused of retaining guards with “known violent affiliations.”
“Defendants Coachella Music Festival, Goldenvoice, and IPS knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that their employees were incompetent and unfit to perform the duties for which they were employed and that undue risk to persons such as Plaintiff would result by way of their inappropriate conduct,” the complaint reads. Belly further accuses all three companies of attempting to cover up the incident by failing to turn over video footage and by blaming him for the attack.
The rapper is suing for assault and battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other things. He seeks punitive, general and special damages for medical and psychiatric costs as well as “economic loss” he has suffered in the wake of the incident.
The main security company for the festival is StaffPro. In past years, IPS had only provided security for the Sahara dance tent, but in 2018, organizer Goldenvoice hired IPS to provide security for the main stage. Their were a number of complaints about the company that year and in 2019 the main stage security assignment was returned to StaffPro
Belly has written or co-written songs for artists including Beyonce, Ariana Grande and Future and released two studio albums. He was nominated for two Grammys for co-writing The Weeknd’s 2016 single “Earned It,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Reps for Coachella and Goldenvoice did not respond to request for comment.