In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit against the songwriter-producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, accusing him of sexual assault and emotional abuse; the two have been embroiled in court battles ever since. In a statement released on Monday, Gottwald’s legal team called Kesha’s initial accusation a “bogus complaint,” part of “a ‘press plan’ and PR media blitz designed to create the maximum negative public pressure on Gottwald in order to get him to give in to her contract demands.”
The statement from the producer’s team presents emails allegedly exchanged between Kesha’s managers, Jack Rovner and Ken Levitan, and veteran music executive Irving Azoff. The alleged emails, which Gottwald’s team says were obtained during litigation, include a “privileged and confidential memorandum” advising that Kesha’s team offers “an exclusive to TMZ” “in order to achieve the maximum level of negative publicity for Person L,” presumably Gottwald.
“Our goal,” the alleged memorandum reads, “is to help extricate Client K from her current professional relationship with Person L by inciting a deluge of negative media attention and public pressure on the basis of the horrific personal abuses presented in the lawsuit.”
In addition, in another alleged communication, Levitan urges Rovner, “let’s battle [Gottwald] in the press. Take down his business.” At one point, Rovner allegedly writes, “I’m all for public execution,” while Azoff chimes in by allegedly calling Gottwald “an idiot.” “Get me in the mix. I will ruin him,” Azoff allegedly promised.
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“When I was Chairman of Live Nation, I was responsible for the management division which included Kesha’s managers,” Azoff tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “In May 2012, her managers, Jack and Ken, came to me as Kesha was in distress: she was trapped in a contract with a person she despised. I remember being shocked by the onerous creative control that was being spitefully inflicted on this young artist – from not allowing her to choose cover art or decide what songs went on her record. I jumped to her defense and I will always defend any artist from being mistreated.”
The alleged emails do not include any discussion of Kesha’s allegation of sexual assault or emotional abuse. However, the statement from Gottwald’s team does include the producer’s account of “what really happened on the night of October 5, 2005”; in Kesha’s 2014 lawsuit, that is the evening that the singer accused Gottwald of sexually assaulting her while she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs that Gottwald allegedly stated were “sober pills.”
Gottwald’s legal team also shared an unsealed deposition stemming from the legal battle where Katy Perry denied that she and Gottwald ever had a sexual or romantic relationship; in June, Gottwald’s defamation lawsuit against Kesha stated that the singer sent a text message to Lady Gaga that said an unnamed record exec (revealed to be Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman and CEO John Janick) told her that Gottwald had also raped Perry, an allegation that Perry denied in court.
Kesha’s legal team responded to Gottwald’s accusations Monday night, including Kesha’s own deposition about what occurred on October 5, 2005. “Kesha’s experience as a victim of abuse, as reflected in the evidence that was unsealed earlier today, will be all-too-familiar to many women around the country,” they wrote in the statement.
“Kesha testified that on October 5, 2005, a few days after she signed an exclusive contract with Dr. Luke’s music-production company, a then-32-year-old Dr. Luke attended a nightclub party in Los Angeles with an 18-year-old Kesha. Kesha testified that when she told Dr. Luke that she felt nauseous after two glasses of champagne, Kesha testified that he gave her a ‘sober pill’ that Kesha took because she thought it would make her feel better. Kesha’s and Dr. Luke’s testimony show that after Kesha vomited at an after-party, Dr. Luke took Kesha to his hotel room, where she woke up the next morning alone, naked, vomiting, and painfully sore like she had sex without lubrication. Sworn testimony and contemporaneous phone records show that Kesha immediately reported the incident to her close friend and mother (with frantic phone calls from her mother trying to find her), and later sought professional help from medical providers. Kesha’s decision to not report to law enforcement is unfortunately very common.”
Kesha’s legal team added, “Notably, Kesha is not alone in her inability to work with Dr. Luke. Kelly Clarkson testified that Dr. Luke can be a ‘bully and demeaning,’ with her record label acknowledging internally that ‘almost every female [at the label] doesn’t like working with’ him. Similarly, Avril Lavigne and Pink have submitted sworn statements that there are reasons other than Kesha’s abuse allegations why they haven’t worked with Dr. Luke in recent years.”
While both sides have attempted to resolve the legal battle with a settlement, negotiations “ultimately failed because Kesha could not agree to, among other things, the terms of the requested non-disclosure agreement,” her legal team said.
Despite a protracted legal battle, Kesha’s efforts to nullify her contract with Gottwald have so far failed. In February 2016, Justice Shirley Kornreich denied the singer’s request for an injunction that would have allowed her to sign with a new record label. In April of the same year, Kornreich ruled that Kesha could not allege that Gottwald carried out a hate crime against her. In March 2017, when Kesha attempted to countersue Gottwald “to be liberated from the physical, emotional, and financial bondage of a destructive relationship,” Kornreich refused to let the singer’s suit move forward. The singer appealed the court’s decision, but her appeal was denied this May. The court called it “devoid of merit.”
Kesha, who is now facing a $50 million defamation lawsuit from Gottwald, ultimately released her 2017 LP Rainbow through RCA Records and Kemosabe, the label co-founded by Gottwald.