Judge Mulls Fate of Content Creator's Defamation Suit Against Comic/Singer

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge says she is inclined to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a social media and digital marketing strategist and “Girl, I Guess'' podcast co-host against a comedian/singer, but took the case under submission today to study the issues further.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner issued a tentative ruling granting Jessie Woo's motion to dismiss Karen Civil's case, finding that Civil had not met the legal standard for defamation given that she is a public figure.

Civil “did not meet her burden of showing she can establish (Woo's) statements were made with actual malice or reckless disregard of their truth or falsity,'' Bachner wrote.

But after hearing arguments, the judge decided to delay a final ruling.

In her lawsuit filed March 18, Civil says she obtained invitations for Woo to important events, including performing the national anthem at a 2020 Clippers playoff game. Civil's suit against the 30-year-old, Canadian-born Woo also alleges false light, unjust enrichment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Woo's attorneys are seeking dismissal of all claims against their client under the state's anti-SLAPP -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation -- law, which is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

“Among the defamatory statements made about me, Jessica alleged that I was a thief, that I was rallying people up to harass her online, disrupting her livelihood and that I was behind the deletion of her Instagram page, without providing proof for any of the allegation,'' Civil states in a sworn declaration in opposition to Woo's anti-SLAPP motion.

But in her tentative ruling, the judge said there is “no evidence suggesting (Woo) did not believe the truth of her assertion that (Civil) had her Instagram account deleted in retaliation, even if such a belief was misguided and even if (Civil) has evidence suggesting such a claim was not true,'' Bachner wrote.

Civil further says she has “never asked my friends or acquaintances to post negative comments or harass Jessica'' and that she has done nothing to delete the defendant's Instagram account, adding that since January, Woo has “relentlessly used her social media platforms to antagonize me by defaming me whenever the opportunity arises.''

Civil says Woo's anger toward her “persists as she has continued to make defamatory statements about me.''

On Aug. 14, Woo used her Twitter and YouTube platforms to falsely allege that Civil was using Haitian natural disaster relief efforts for her own personal gain, according to Civil, who, like Woo, has Haitian roots.

Civil, 36, has created digital content for such artists as Lil Wayne, the late Nipsey Hussle, YG, Jeezy, Nicki Minaj, Dave East, Andre Berto, Pusha T and Nick Cannon, the suit states.

Dubbed by the New Yorker as the “Girl who made Hillary Clinton cool,'' Civil was an integral part of the former Democratic presidential candidate's social media marketing campaign, her suit states.

Civil also has been the digital marketing director of Beats by Dre for more than six years, the suit states. She mentored Woo over the years and during the weekend of the 2019 Grammys, obtained an invitation for her when she was not on the list for the Spotify Best New Artist Party, the suit states.

In January 2020, Civil invited Woo to attend her brunch at the Super Bowl in Miami and introduced the comedian to others in the music industry to assist her in her career, the suit states.

In August 2020, Civil's efforts enabled Woo to sing the national anthem at a Clippers playoff game, the suit states. In November 2020, Civil and Ming Lee reached a deal with the Joe Budden Podcast Network to produce “Girl, I Guess,'' which was well-received and has had more than 1 million streams since its Jan. 20 premiere, according to the suit.

Woo alleged in a tweet 11 days later that Civil had told her in a private conversation that a friend of Woo's had stolen the plaintiff's idea for a podcast, the suit states. Woo then went on to say Civil was actually the one who had lifted the idea for the plaintiff's podcast from the defendant's friend, according to the suit.

“What does Karen do besides steal? ... My point still stands,'' Woo tweeted, according to the suit.

“One of the core requirements of any successful media and entertainment website is that they accurately inform their audiences in an unbiased and objective manner on emerging trends and breaking news in entertainment,'' the suit states. “Ms. Civil's podcast is a part of her name and her brand, so for (Woo) to attack the integrity of Ms. Civil, her podcast and her image is to further attack Ms. Civil herself.''

Woo then issued multiple tweets accusing Civil of stealing, going into explicit detail about a private conversation that had taken place between them, according to the suit.

Woo subsequently tweeted an invitation to all her followers who may have witnessed any deceit by Civil or had been personally victimized by the plaintiff to send the information to the defendant's Google Mail account, the suit states.

Woo has “irreparably caused damage to Civil's credibility as a social media and digital marketing strategist, damaging her brand and her potential to do business within the entertainment sphere,'' the suit states.

But in her own declaration, Woo says Civil has “purported to be a champion for Black women, yet stole a podcast idea and naming concept from another Black woman and then attempted to further abuse her victim with a smear campaign.''

Woo says she is “positive'' that the deletion of her social media accounts was caused by Civil.

“I was extremely frustrated, particularly because my social media accounts are, in essence, my livelihood,'' Woo says.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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