Lil Peep's Mom Sues Late Rapper's Handlers Over Death - Rolling Stone
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Lil Peep’s Mom Sues Late Rapper’s Managers Over Death

Liza Womack accuses First Access Management, handlers of “propping [Peep] up” with drugs prior to 2017 overdose death

Rapper Lil Peep performs onstage during the Day N Night Festival at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 8, 2017 in Anaheim, California.

Lil Peep's mom, Liza Womack, has filed a wrongful death suit against the late rapper's handlers.

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Lil Peep’s mother, Liza Womack, has filed a lawsuit against the late rapper’s managers for negligence, breach of contract and wrongful death, among other charges, according to a complaint obtained by Rolling Stone. The news was first reported by The New York Times.

The suit alleges that Peep’s handlers ignored his physical and mental health and instead pushed the rapper, whose real name was Gustav Ahr, “onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping him up” with illegal drugs and unprescribed medication. The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and is seeking unspecified damages.

“This is something that I must do as a mother,” Womack told the Times. “I feel very concerned that they not be exploited. What Gus had to live through is actually horrifying to me, and I’m sure he’s not the only person his age in this situation.”

The suit specifically names Peep’s former label/management company, First Access Entertainment, Bryant Ortega (also known as Chase), a member of Peep’s management team, and Belinda Mercer, who worked as Lil Peep’s tour manager during his final run in fall 2017.

“Lil Peep’s death from an accidental drug overdose was a terrible tragedy. However, the claim that First Access Entertainment, any of its employees, or Chase Ortega, or anyone else under our auspices was somehow responsible for, complicit in, or contributed to his death is categorically untrue,” a rep for First Access Entertainment said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “In fact, we consistently encouraged Peep to stop abusing drugs and to distance himself from the negative influence of the drug users and enablers with whom he chose to associate.

“It is extremely disappointing that Peep’s mother would file this meritless lawsuit, since she is well aware of the numerous efforts made by First Access and Chase Ortega to steer her son away from his concerning lifestyle choices,” the rep continued. “Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, he was an adult who made his own decisions and opted to follow a different, more destructive path.”

Ahr died from an overdose of fentanyl and Xanax in November 2017 while he was on tour at the age of 21. Womack’s suit alleges that throughout 2017, Peep was “stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted and physically unwell,” but that First Access co-founder Sarah Stennett and others “fostered, promoted and encouraged” drug use in order to maintain control over the rapper.

The suit alleges that Stennett gave Ahr a bottle of unspecified pills as a gift during a 2017 dinner, while it also cites text messages from her, in which she tells him she has two different doses of Xanax pills for him. It also claims that Ahr was in a sexual relationship with Mercer while she was his tour manager, and that Mercer allegedly provided the rapper with drugs, including ketamine.

The suit further alleges that “some of these drug runs and illegal transactions were captured in the form of payments to Riley Fatch by Mercer, described as ‘bus maintenance’ and ‘bus restock,’ on the Venmo mobile payment platform, paid directly or reimbursed by FAE.” Rolling Stone has learned that Fatch was indicted for possession with intent to sell methamphetamine in 2018. The case was dismissed upon Fatch’s death in May 2019.

The day before Ahr’s death, during a tour stop in El Paso, Texas, the suit claims that Ahr told his handlers he didn’t want to perform. In response, the suit claims that Ahr was told to “take an excessive amount of Xanax so as to make himself sick, which would in turn trigger insurance coverage of the cancellation.” The suit alleges that the following night, when Ahr died, Mercer and others saw that he looked “alarmingly unwell,” but ultimately declined to seek help.

According to the suit, shortly after Ahr’s death, Ortega tweeted: “I’ve been expecting this call for a year. Mother fuck.”

Much of the lawsuit pulls from David Peisner’s Rolling Stone feature on Lil Peep’s final days. In that story, Stennett denied that she gave Ahr pills. She also claimed she didn’t know what kind of drugs people were using on the bus, and that she and Ortega repeatedly encouraged Peep to seek counseling.

Much of the case will hinge on whether or not Womack can prove that First Access Entertainment purposefully facilitated Peep’s drug use, or that they had an obligation to look out for him and did not adequately do so. While Womack’s lawyer Paul A. Matiasic acknowledged that Lil Peep “had a role” in his own death, he said that “evaluating the legal responsibility for someone’s untimely death … is not a binary decision.” He argued that First Access had the power, influence and control over Lil Peep’s career and that, “There are duties associated with having that type of control.”

Read First Access Entertainment’s full statement:

Lil Peep’s death from an accidental drug overdose was a terrible tragedy. However, the claim that First Access Entertainment, any of its employees, or Chase Ortega, or anyone else under our auspices was somehow responsible for, complicit in, or contributed to his death is categorically untrue. In fact, we consistently encouraged Peep to stop abusing drugs and to distance himself from the negative influence of the drug users and enablers with whom he chose to associate.

It is extremely disappointing that Peep’s mother would file this meritless lawsuit, since she is well aware of the numerous efforts made by First Access and Chase Ortega to steer her son away from his concerning lifestyle choices.  Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, he was an adult who made his own decisions and opted to follow a different, more destructive path.  

After comprehensively reviewing the facts, the Medical Examiner ruled that Peep’s death was accidental; likewise, the Tucson Police Department conducted a thorough investigation and concluded that his death was the result of an accidental overdose. 

While First Access is deeply saddened by Lil Peep’s untimely death, we will not hesitate to defend ourselves against this groundless and offensive lawsuit. We look forward to its swift dismissal.

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