LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Rapper T.I. and his wife, Tameka "Tiny" Harris, are seeking nearly $165,000 in attorneys' fees and costs after winning a partial reversal on appeal of a Superior Court judge's ruling that a woman could move forward with her entire lawsuit alleging defamation and other claims against the hip hop couple.
In September 2021, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Sotelo denied anti-SLAPP motions brought by the Harrises and hairstylist Shekina Jones Anderson regarding plaintiff Sabrina Peterson's lawsuit. The state's anti-SLAPP -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation -- law is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
The judge found that Peterson had shown a "probability of prevailing" on her claims against the couple and Anderson for not only defamation per se and defamation trade libel, but also for invasion of privacy, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
But on June 2, a three-justice panel of the Second District Court of appeal unanimously ruled that Peterson's claims for trade libel, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional infliction of emotional distress should be stricken. Justice Audra Mori, who wrote the opinion, also said the Harrises were entitled to attorney's fees.
On Tuesday, the Harrises' lawyers filed court papers with Judge Anne Richardson, who replaced the retired Sotelo, asking for $164,650 in attorneys' fees and costs. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 26.
Peterson filed suit in March 2021. In an Instagram post two months earlier, Peterson accused the 42-year-old T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, of putting a gun to her head. She also shared statements from over 30 women who claimed they had allegedly been drugged or forced into sex by the Harrises.
The Harrises denied the gun accusation in an official statement and both issued responses on Instagram as well. Tameka Harris, 48, posted a photo of Peterson's 8-year-old son and told Peterson to stop harassing her family and seek help, while T.I. posted an eight-minute video denying the allegations.
Anderson has appeared on the Harrises' reality show, "T.I. & Tiny," as well as other programs. The suit alleges that Anderson made a defamatory Instagram post late in January 2021 in which she claimed Peterson was engaged in sexual acts with T.I. and Tiny.
Peterson alleges she has been harassed since the responses from the Harrises and Anderson. In a sworn declaration, she said she moved to California to expand her cannabis business and attract investors.
"The Harrises knew, or should have known, that their false and baseless attacks on my moral character would severely impair my ability to attract investors...," Peterson says.
She further says she offered to dismiss her lawsuit in return for an apology and an admission by the Harrises of the falsity of their remarks.
"This was in no way a statement on the merit of my lawsuit, but instead was an attempt to end what has been a complete and utter nightmare for me on a personal, professional and emotional level," Peterson says. "Their failure to set the record straight has left me with this lawsuit as the only means by which to clear my name of the salacious allegation that originated with the Harrises, and which they caused to be published online to millions of people."