Sean Penn Wins Minor Victory in Defamation Suit Against Lee Daniels As Case Moves to New York

Sean Penn and Lee Daniels. Photo: Getty Images

Sean Penn’s defamation suit against Lee Daniels will not be tried in federal court, Deadline reports. Instead, despite Daniels’s efforts, the case will move back to state court in New York, with Daniels reportedly paying Penn’s legal fees. The legal battle between the two men started in September, after Daniels brought Penn up in a discussion about Terrence Howard’s long history of violence against women. “He ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” Daniels told THR. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

Penn duly filed a $10 million defamation suit against the Empire showrunner, saying he had used “reckless, false, and defamatory” language merely to drum up buzz for the show. “As a result of Penn’s status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks,” the complaint read. “But Penn, like any citizen, has a right to defend himself and will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behavior of others, who seek to aggrandize themselves or their projects at his expense.”

Though he was never charged, there have been persistent rumors that Penn abused Madonna during the couple’s brief marriage in the 1980s. The actor’s lawsuit states that “Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.”

Sean Penn–Lee Daniels Slander Suit Moves to N.Y.