The ugly legal battle between producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and Kesha Rose Sebert is likely to end in one of two ways: Lawyers for both have called for a jury trial to rule on Sebert’s accusations that Gottwald physically and emotionally abused her, forcing her to drink with him, then take “sober pills,” after which she “woke up the following afternoon, naked in Dr. Luke’s bed, sore and sick.” But such a trial could drag on forever, legal experts say, given both sides’ copious court motions and a likely discovery process to investigate intimate details of both artists’ lives. “It can take many years to get to trial in New York Supreme Court,” says Megan Goddard, a veteran New York attorney who specializes in representing sexual-harassment victims.
That’s time neither artist may want to spend — particularly Kesha, whose last album was 2012’s Warrior. “Your window to be a pop star kind of closes,” says Ben McLane, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented LL Cool J and Dionne Warwick, among others. “There’s a lot of pressure on her to work this thing out — maybe more than he has.”
Thus, several music-business attorneys predict an alternate conclusion: a settlement, most likely involving Kesha departing from Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records with a cash payout that allows both sides to resume their careers. “It’ll be a confidentiality clause and nobody will get to talk about what the deal was or what happened — and it’ll probably end up in some version of ‘Kesha stays on Sony.’ And it’s possible her deal will get much better at Sony,” says Whitney Broussard, a veteran San Francisco entertainment attorney who works with artists, labels and production companies. “At the end of the day, the record business never really likes to air its dirty laundry in public. Most of the time, everyone would rather move on with life.”
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Earlier this month, a New York judge ruled against Sebert’s request to be released from her record deal with Gottwald’s Kemosabe Records and its corporate parent, Sony Music. Sebert teared up in court, prompting the re-emergence of the #FreeKesha Twitter movement and support from Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Snoop Dogg, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, the latter donating $250,000 to the troubled singer. At the Brit Awards, Adele said she’d like to “take this moment to publicly support Kesha.”
Gottwald vehemently denies the allegations. His lawyer recently called the Twitter activity a “vicious smear campaign to ruin his reputation for financial gain.”