On Wednesday, pop star Kesha lost yet another legal battle against her producer and alleged rapist, Dr. Luke.
Kesha Rose Sebert has been trying to disentangle herself from her contract with Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald’s label, Kemosabe, and the larger entity under which that label is housed, Sony Music Entertainment, for over a year. The abuse she alleges is graphic and disturbing: That Gottwald plied her with “sober pills” that were actually roofies and raped her; that he threatened her career and her family’s safety; that his relentless emotional abuse contributed to Sebert’s development of an eating disorder for which she sought treatment at a rehab facility.
Judge Shirley Kornreich — the same judge who, in February, ruled in Gottwald and Sony’s favor, refused to grant Sebert the preliminary injunction that would have allowed Sebert to record music with Kemosabe or Sony while her lawsuit played out — rejected all of Sebert’s claims.
The issue, which will sound familiar to anyone also following the allegations against Bill Cosby, is not even about whether what Sebert alleges actually took place. Everything in Kornreich’s ruling is, in fact, based on believing Sebert’s version of events. “For purposes of the motion to dismiss,” Korneich writes. “Kesha’s allegations are accepted as true.” The issue is that the statute of limitations has run out.
Why Sony Doesn’t Want To Let Kesha Out Of Her Contract With Her Alleged AbuserWhy can’t Kesha get out of her contract? On Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich declined to grant…thinkprogress.orgThough Sebert claims Gottwald’s abuse began “shortly after” she moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and “that she was sexually, physically, and verbally abused by Gottwald for a decade, she describes only two specific instances of physical/sexual abuse.”
One of those instances is when Gottwald allegedly “forced” Sebert to snort illicit substances before they got on a plane together, at which point Gottwald “continually forced himself on her” for the duration of the flight while she was under the influence of the drugs. The other is the time Gottwald gave Sebert what he told her were “sober pills” (and were, really, GHB, colloquially known as the date rape drug), after which Sebert believes Gottwald raped her while she was unconscious. She says “she woke up naked, sick, and sore in his hotel room with no memory of how she got there.” The former allegedly took place in 2008, the latter in 2005. As the motion points out, Kemosabe did not yet exist at this point. The imprint was established in 2011.
In New York, the statute of limitations for a civil claim “to recover for physical, psychological or other injury or condition suffered as a result of rape in the first degree” or “aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree” is five years. And “a cause of action for sexual assault and battery is subject to a one-year statute of limitations.”
The motion goes through Sebert’s stated reasons for telling no one but her mother about the abuse: Fear for her professional life and personal safety based on threats from Gottwald. The only complaint she brought to Sony Music Entertainment’s attention was with Gottwald’s business practices and what Sebert deemed to be her “unconscionable” contracts.
Essentially, Kornreich wanted details: dates, places, and the like. In the absence of specifics, Kornreich’s reasoning goes, the only allegations she has to work with are the ones dating back to 2005 and 2008. Kornreich also is critical of Sebert’s silence: “She failed to make the necessary allegations.”
Sebert’s legal tactic here was to allege Gottwald’s behavior constituted a hate crime. Kornreich ruled that “no facts support… that the alleged violent incidents were motivated by gender.” While Gottwald’s alleged attacks were on Sebert, who is female, Kornreich found no evidence that “Gottwald harbored animus toward women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha.”
The kicker: “Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.”
Gottwald could have been found liable for emotional distress inflicted upon Sebert, but only if his “conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” But there’s a one-year statute of limitations on that as well. It could be extended if the “torturous events” date back more than a year, but the most recent incident — the “final action” — must fall within the one-year of commencing the action.
The physical incidents Sebert alleges took place too long ago, and the verbal abuse she describes — Gottwald insulting her appearance and her artistry — do not meet that “atrocious, utterly intolerable” threshold.
Kesha Says She Was Offered ‘Freedom’ In Exchange For Recanting Rape Accusations Against Dr. LukeOn Sunday, pop singer Kesha Sebert alleged that she was offered her “freedom” if she agreed “to APOLOGIZE publicly and…thinkprogress.orgWhy is a case centered on two individuals who reside in California (Sebert resides in Tennessee as well) about abuses that allegedly occurred in California — as the motion points out, Sebert does not allege any violent acts in New York City — being ruled on in New York? The motion goes so far as to clarify that Sebert “writes her songs in either Tennessee or California, but not New York; and she recorded music and wrote songs with Gottwald only in California.”
Sebert’s claims were originally filed in a California court. But, as Spencer Kornhaber explains in The Atlantic, Gottwald was able to get the case moved to New York because of a provision in Sebert’s record contract “about selecting the venue where legal disputes related to that contract are heard.”
But upon arrival in New York, Gottwald’s side “argued for dismissal of Kesha’s claims on the ground that they happened in California and therefore did not violate New York law. Kornreich agreed with this argument, which would seem to raise the question of how Kesha’s allegations could ever get full consideration in civil court if the defense can move the case away from where the abuse actually happened.” Gottwald could take the Kesha case on a nationwide tour, if he wanted to, and make the same argument for dismissal every time.