Nicki Minaj Avoids $20 Million Default Judgment in Harassment Lawsuit

Nicki Minaj scored a minor legal victory Tuesday when a federal court clerk decided the “Beam Me Up Scotty” rapper didn’t fail to respond to the lawsuit claiming she harassed and tried to bribe the woman at the center of her husband’s attempted rape conviction.

The plaintiff, Jennifer Hough, had asked the court to find the singer and her husband Kenneth Petty in “default” and award her $20 million for her claims that she endured a “relentless campaign of bribery, intimidation, harassment, and stalking” from the couple aimed at getting her to recant her claim Petty raped her at knifepoint in 1994.

The federal clerk for the Eastern District of New York denied the request related to Minaj on Tuesday, writing on the court docket that “it appears” Minaj filed paperwork last week saying she finally hired a lawyer to defend her.

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The clerk did, however, certify that Petty “has not filed an answer or otherwise moved with respect to the complaint.”

In a sworn statement filed October 15th, Minaj said she thought she had successfully hired her lawyer in late September after speaking with him over Zoom but that series of “innocent miscommunications” led to a delay in the payment of his retainer.

“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,” she wrote in her declaration.

“I confirm the truth of those portions of defendant’s declaration concerning my role in her failure to secure my services promptly,” the lawyer, Judd Burstein, wrote in his related statement.

Hough’s lawyer, Tyrone Blackburn, told Rolling Stone Tuesday that he still plans to pursue a default motion against Petty for the $20 million.

“It’s interesting that Kenneth Petty is currently in the Eastern District of New York suing the state of New York, but he has no respect for this proceeding and no respect for this judge to come forward and to answer for raping Jennifer Hough in 1994 and all the harassment he and his wife and his goons visited upon her since then,” Blackburn said.

Petty is indeed suing New York state officials with a claim he wasn’t properly notified in 2004 of his right to challenge the risk level under the Sex Offender Registration Act. He was incarcerated at the time following his conviction for first-degree manslaughter involving the shooting death of a man on a Queens street.

Burstein did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether he also planned to represent Petty. His client and Petty married in October 2019.

Hough’s lawsuit, filed in August, accuses Minaj and Petty of “witness intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, harassment, assault, battery, sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

In chilling detail, the complaint claims Petty accosted Hough at a Queens bus stop on September 16, 1994, when they were both high school students, and forced her to a nearby residence at knifepoint. It claims Petty pressed a knife into Hough’s stomach, “causing a small cut,” before he forcibly raped her and subsequently stood in front of a mirror where he beat his chest and proclaimed, “I am the man.”

Petty was ultimately convicted of first-degree attempted rape in the case in April 1995 and sentenced to 18 to 54 months in prison. Decades later, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2020 for failing to register as a sex offender when he moved to Los Angeles in 2019. In a deal with prosecutors signed in August, Petty agreed to plead guilty to failing to register. His sentencing is set for January 24th.

According to Hough’s lawsuit, she first learned that Minaj and Petty were dating when the Grammy winner posted photos with Petty in 2018. In November 2019, Minaj claimed during a radio appearance that Petty had been “wrongly accused” and that his victim in the case had “written a letter recanting her statement,” according to Hough’s complaint.

Hough, who’s adamant she never recanted, says the issue came to a head last spring when a childhood friend identified as “Black” acted as a liaison of sorts between Hough and Minaj, putting the two women in direct contact over the phone.

“During the call, Defendant Minaj stated that she heard plaintiff was willing to ‘help out’ their situation and stated that she would fly plaintiff and her family to Los Angeles. Plaintiff declined this offer,” Hough’s lawsuit states. A few days later, Minaj allegedly “instructed her associates” to contact Hough’s brother and offer $500,000 for a letter from Hough “recanting her rape claim,” the paperwork claims. From there, the lawsuit details more instances of alleged harassment and intimidation that ultimately forced Hough to pack up and move to Florida from Atlanta because she feared for her safety.

“She was afraid her child would be killed or kidnapped due to the threats from Defendant Minaj and Defendant Petty,” the lawsuit says.

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