the law

Nicki Minaj Claims Her Silence Around Harassment Suit Was an ‘Innocent’ Mistake

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs

Nicki Minaj claimed that she didn’t respond to a harassment lawsuit filed by her husband’s rape accuser because of a “series of innocent miscommunications” with her legal representatives, according to new court papers. This accuser, Jennifer Hough, filed suit against the rapper and her husband, Kenneth Petty, in Brooklyn federal court on August 13.

Petty was convicted of attempted rape for attacking Hough in 1994. (While Petty’s conviction was for attempted rape, Hough claims he raped her.) Hough alleged in the lawsuit that Minaj “directly and indirectly harassed Plaintiff to recant her legitimate claim that Petty raped her,” and also alleged that Minaj indirectly or directly “attempted to intimidate” and “indirectly threatened” the plaintiff. The lawsuit also pointed to Minaj’s repeated statements that her husband was “wrongly accused.”

Neither Minaj nor Petty filed any legal paperwork responding to Hough’s lawsuit for nearly two months, so on October 11, Hough’s attorney, Tyrone Blackburn, requested a certificate of default from the court clerk. When a court clerk issues a certificate of default, it means attorneys can ask the judge to issue a default judgement. If a judge does so, the defendants have to pay damages without going to trial.

In court papers filed Friday, Minaj’s lawyer, Judd Burstein, fought the request for a certificate of default and included a sworn statement from her in his argument. Minaj said that neither she nor Petty was actually “served” with the suit, meaning they did not receive official notice of it. Minaj added that she started looking for a lawyer after finding out about the lawsuit and had a Zoom conference with Burstein on September 23. When this meeting ended, Minaj said, she thought Burstein was representing her, and she told him to work out the details with her manager. But Minaj’s manager “had not understood” that she wanted Burstein to represent her, so he wasn’t actually working as her lawyer. That “misunderstanding was cleared up” October 12, she said.

“My failure to respond to the Complaint was the product of an innocent mistake, and I ask the Court to excuse the delay so that I can defend what I believe to be an entirely frivolous case which Plaintiff’s counsel has brought against me in an effort to use my name to generate publicity for himself,” Minaj said.

On Tuesday, the court clerk denied Hough’s request for a certificate of default against Minaj but did enter one against Petty. Vulture could not immediately reach Petty’s attorney for comment. Burstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blackburn and Steven N. Gordon, another attorney representing Hough, said they will ask the court clerk to reconsider the decision on Minaj.

“The Certificate of Default has been denied but we believe this was in error. We will be seeking that the Clerk amend its decision. With respect to Mr. Petty, we plan to immediately move the Court to enter default judgment against him for the amount requested,” they said in a statement.

Nicki Minaj Claims Silence on Lawsuit Was ‘Innocent’ Mistake