The four founding members of pop-punk band All Time Low filed a libel lawsuit Thursday against at least three people who claimed in recent social media posts that the group sexually harassed or assaulted teen fans.
The bold move escalates the legal stakes for the embattled emo rockers and will undoubtedly generate even more scrutiny after the Maryland-bred quartet issued an all-caps statement last October denying the online claims.
The complaint, obtained by Rolling Stone, claims the band has no idea who the online accusers are, leaving them “no choice but to mobilize and utilize the civil court system to identify the culprits, prove that the defamatory statements are false, and seek justice.”
“The purpose of the lawsuit is to establish the unambiguous truth and quash these malicious lies so that they won’t be repeated in the future,” the nine-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court states.
The band members – identified as lead guitarist Jack Barakat, singer/guitarist Alex Gaskarth, bass player Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson – say they plan to “utilize discovery including subpoenas to uncover the identities of those that defamed them.”
“Regrettably, this is the only course remaining to properly restore their reputations and repair the damage to their business. [The band] will then donate any proceeds derived from this litigation to charities that support victims of sexual abuse,” the lawsuit states.
The allegations against the band went viral in October. The first defendant, identified in the paperwork as Doe 1, is a TikTok user who posted a cryptic message under the name @mini.grew claiming “a famous pop punk band” offered her beer on a tour bus and asked for her bra “for their nasty collection” when she was 13. The woman didn’t explicitly name the band but “gave easily solved clues” that led to a consensus the group was All Time Low, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, a Twitter user named @spidahkii quickly stepped forward to refute Doe 1’s allegations. She claimed to have attended the concert with Doe 1, shared a photo purportedly showing them at the event and said Doe 1’s claims “never happened.” The lawsuit claims Doe 1 then admitted she posted her statements “to be petty towards a peer” and made her video private. She’s been posting under a different name since then.
A couple weeks later, a second accuser going by the name @ATLstatement posted a lengthy statement on Twitter and TikTok alleging Barakat sexually abused her in 2011 when she was 15 years old and he was 22. She claimed the inappropriate relationship continued for years as she followed the band on subsequent tours.
The woman, referred to as Doe 2 in the lawsuit, “maliciously” posted the “elaborate and completely fabricated story” knowing it was false, the band claims in the new filing. Doe 2’s Twitter account has since been suspended, though her statement remained live on TikTok as of Thursday morning.
On Oct. 24, another Twitter user with the handle @dietsodasage posted a tweet claiming to have counted 97 allegations against the band. “If 97 people aren’t enough then I don’t know what to tell you,” the user, identified as Doe 3, wrote.
“Without any evidence whatsoever, Doe 3 egregiously and falsely claimed that ‘97 allegations’ had been made against the band, an accusation that spread like wildfire on the Internet,” the lawsuit claims.
The Twitter account has since been deactivated, but the lawsuit includes a screen grab of a post attributed to @dietsodasage that reads, “I feel kind of weird about how people took my tweet about the atl situation :/ I didn’t mean for things to go like that so I’m probably going to stay priv for a few days.”
In a statement posted online Oct. 25, the members of All Time Low called the anonymous allegations on TikTok and Twitter “absolutely and unequivocally false.”
“We are investigating further the source of these false accusations and will be seeking legal recourse as we take these allegations very seriously. With that in mind, we want to say again, we stand with victims and always wish to amplify the voices and stories of those who have suffered abuse and trauma. But we cannot and will not fuel or amplify lies that only cloud and distort the true stories of those who need to be heard and represented,” they wrote.
The three posts and the band’s denial fueled a maelstrom of outraged replies, questions and counterattacks from fans. In one response, Twitter user Samantha Garcia shared a photo of herself with Barakat allegedly snapped when she was 14 years old and he was 21. She claimed the guitarist “excitedly said ‘boobies!’” before signing her chest at her request.
“I don’t have any feelings personally about it, other than the culture at the time should not have been encouraging teenage girls to oversexualize themselves for ‘the scene’. I never should have felt comfortable enough to ask an adult man to sign my boob, but it is what it is,” she wrote.
I don't have any feelings personally about it, other than the culture at the time should not have been encouraging teenage girls to oversexualize themselves for "the scene". I never should have felt comfortable enough to ask an adult man to sign my boob, but it is what it is ig. pic.twitter.com/1ZUH0uu3eD
— 🍃🌺Almighty Hot & Online™️ 🌺🌿 (@gammysarcia) October 26, 2021
Speaking to Rolling Stone on Thursday, Garcia, now 26, said she was a huge fan who attended more than 20 All Time Low shows over the last decade – including many where the band endorsed the tossing of bras onstage. “For a long time, their shows were pretty raunchy. And their fan base was pretty young. I think that shifted when they realized the culture was changing,” Garcia, who’s from New Brunswick, N.J., said.
“I would have appreciated a little more accountability,” she added of the band’s statement and libel lawsuit. “I wish they would have said, ‘We were young too. We were not aware of the damage we were doing to our younger fan base. That sucked. We’re sorry it wasn’t always a safe environment, but we’re trying to do better.’ Instead, they’re saying, ‘We’ve always been good.’” (A rep for the band had no immediate comment on Garcia’s comments Thursday.)
The new lawsuit from All Time Low is similar to a defamation complaint filed by Justin Bieber in June 2020 against “two social media users” identified only as Danielle and Kadi in his initial filing.
The “Peaches” singer said Danielle “maliciously” lied when she claimed Bieber sexually assaulted her at a hotel in Austin, Texas, on the very specific date of March 9, 2014. In his complaint, Bieber said he had proof he was staying at an Austin rental property with his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez that night. Bieber also accused Kadi of “provably” fabricating a story that he sexually assaulted her at the Langham hotel in New York City at 2:30 a.m. on May 5, 2015. In his filing, Bieber said he was at a Met Gala after-party with dozens of witnesses at the time of the alleged attack and was photographed leaving the party around 4 a.m. and stopping for a snack at a hot dog stand. The case is due to go to trial in May.
One legal expert described the types of defamation lawsuits filed by Bieber and All Time Low as “bold power plays.” “This is not something that any individual would walk into lightly. I guarantee they have been advised that by bringing a lawsuit, they’re opening themselves up to discovery that would include all of the allegations that were made online. By bringing a lawsuit, it appears they’re entering willingly, knowing there’s going to be investigations into their background, and they don’t care,” lawyer David M. Ring, who represents one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers in his Los Angeles criminal case, tells Rolling Stone. “Apparently, they’re not afraid.”
Without referring to All Time Low specifically, Ring added that defamation lawsuits can be a “double-edged” sword for plaintiffs with anything but spotless records.
“There’s a pandora’s box element to bringing a lawsuit like this,” he said. “If you’re just doing this to be a bully and shut people up, it could backfire. You might be lighting a fire under other victims to retain counsel. More women might start coming forward out of pure anger, feeling like they have to do something.”
For their part, the members of All Time Low remain adamant the October allegations are not only false but “diminished” the band’s touring opportunities, music publishing and sponsorship opportunities. They’re demanding real and punitive damages and an injunction ordering the Doe defendants to remove any defamatory posts.
“Not only have the reputations of the band and its members been unfairly tarnished, but the band has also lost business opportunities and suffered cancellation of scheduled events,” the new lawsuit states.
“All Time Low has worked hard for two decades to earn its large fan base and would prefer to continue to focus on its music rather than litigate. However, these false and salacious accusations have harmed the band, its members and their families, and the business of All Time Low.”
All Time Low’s Libel Lawsuit