Culture

Kesha Faces Impossible Choice: Work With Her Alleged Abuser Or Destroy Her Career

CREDIT: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Pop singer Kesha Sebert is moving forward with her legal battle against producer Lukasz Sebastian “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who she claims sexually abused her, and her label, Sony, which she alleges enabled Dr. Luke’s crimes.

Sebert is under contract with Gottwald’s Kemosabe Records label, housed under Sony, and Gottwald has dismissed all of Sebert’s allegations against him as an effort to extort him and get out of her contract.

Sebert filed for an injunction in September, according to The Hollywood Reporter, insisting to a New York judge that her career is in jeopardy and she needs to be able to record an album without Gottwald. Other labels, she says, won’t take her on; she presented affidavits from people in the entertainment industry attesting to the fact that major labels won’t touch her because they’re concerned they’ll be sued for tortious interference. She also made the case that she can’t wait for her legal battles to be over and then start recording again without the downtime negatively impacting her earning potential; pop singers’ careers only last so long.

On Friday, Sebert filed papers in court telling a judge that she’d requested, via letters to both Gottwald and Sony, to record an album for Sony, just without Gottwald or Kemosabe’s involvement. But her attorney, Mark Geragos, said in a legal brief that the responses Sebert received “indicated both Sony and Dr. Luke believe the exclusivity clauses remain in effect, they will not agree to refrain from enforcement, and Sony specifically will not work with Sebert unless she agrees to work with Kemosabe and Dr. Luke’s company, KMI.”

As her attorney wrote, “Kesha now faces an abysmal decision: work with her alleged abuser…or idly and passively wait as her career tick-tocks away. She is precluded from working in perpetuity because the term of her contract can only be satisfied if she records three more albums. Kesha needs the Court’s assistance.” (One assumes he is not actually making a “Tik Tok” pun, in a legal document, intentionally.)

Sebert filed her lawsuit against Gottwald in October 2014, accusing him of drugging and raping her, as well as trying to exert “suffocating control” over her life, starting from when she was 18 years old and living in Nashville, TN, when he allegedly convinced her to drop out of high school. She accuses him of making her do illegal drugs and take “sober pills” (which Sebert believes were gamma-hydroxybutrate, the date rape drug). The lawsuit describes on instance when Sebert took the pills and woke up the next morning to find herself sick, aching, and naked, in Gottwald’s bed. She didn’t remember how she got there.

She claims that Gottwald threatened to destroy her and her family if she ever went public with her story. He also threatened to take away her publishing rights, she claims, and mocked her appearance, which she alleges contributed to her development of an eating disorder.

Once Sebert signed with Gottwald in 2005, she alleges, he would engage in “despicable conduct” like “bragging how he liked to get girls drunk and have sex with them and blackmailing his pregnant wife into getting an abortion by not speaking to her for six months and threatening to leave.”

Sebert’s complaints against Gottwald aren’t just personal; they’re professional. She says he made her sign and stick with unfair, exploitative contracts for more than ten years.

In June, Sebert amended her complaint and added Sony Music as a defendant in her case against Gottwald for allegedly supporting his abuse: “Dr. Luke’s proclivity for abusive conduct was open and obvious to [Sony Music Entertainment] executives, who either knew of the conduct and turned a blind eye, failed to investigate Dr. Luke’s conduct, failed to take any corrective action, or actively concealed Dr. Luke’s abuse.”