A week after Nicki Minaj was dismissed from a harassment lawsuit filed by her husband’s rape accuser, a lawyer for plaintiff Jennifer Hough says the “Beam Me Up Scotty” rapper isn’t off the hook yet.
Speaking to a federal magistrate judge at a hearing Thursday, the lawyer claimed the only reason Minaj was voluntarily dropped from the civil litigation filed in the Eastern District of New York was because jurisdictional issues require Hough to move her claims against Minaj to a different coast.
“We plan to refile it in a court with proper jurisdiction,” Hough’s lawyer Steven N. Gordon told Judge James R. Cho at the Thursday morning hearing. Gordon later identified California as the proper venue because Minaj, whose legal name is Onika Tanya Maraj, now lives in the Golden State with her husband and co-defendant in the case, Kenneth Petty.
“If you intend to refile the action in another jurisdiction, do you intend this case to follow as well?” Judge Cho asked, referring to the still-active suit against Petty in New York, which includes claims of sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress linked to Petty’s conviction for his 1994 attempted rape of Hough, as well as the surviving harassment claims also lodged against Petty.
Gordon said that if the case against Petty survives Hough’s pending request for a default judgment and moves forward, it’s possible his client would seek to consolidate the harassment claims against Maraj and Petty in California while keeping the sex assault claims on their current path toward a trial in New York.
“We are concerned with delaying discovery in this case any longer,” Gordon said. “We believe this court is proper for those causes of action and would certainly not consolidate.”
In a statement to Rolling Stone after the hearing, Gordon said, “We still feel very strongly about the merits of the case against both of them,” referring to both Maraj and Petty.
Maraj’s lawyer, meanwhile, said any claims re-filed against his client in California would face the same aggressive response they met in New York.
“This is just a frivolous gambit to avoid a sanctions motion which I told them that I would be filing shortly and for which they refuse to set a schedule,” lawyer Judd Burstein said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “As usual, they have decided to adopt a tactic without bothering to research the law. Had they done so, they would realize that re-filing their frivolous action in another jurisdiction will only result in another court sanctioning them.”
Petty’s lawyer told Judge Cho on Thursday that his client denies ever raping Hough and was only late to responding to her lawsuit because he wasn’t properly served and had trouble finding a lawyer he could “trust.”
“The complaint lacks merit. That’s why there’s this rush for a default judgment,” lawyer Steven David Isser said. “This case should be litigated on the merits.”
Hough’s original lawsuit, filed last August, accuses Petty of accosting her at a bus stop in 1994 and raping her at knifepoint. It went on to accuse Maraj and Petty of trying to harass and intimidate her into recanting the rape claim.
Petty was ultimately convicted of first-degree attempted rape in April 1995 and sentenced to 18 to 54 months in prison. Decades later, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2020 for failing to register as a sex offender when he moved to Los Angeles in 2019. In a deal with prosecutors signed in August, Petty agreed to plead guilty to failing to register. His sentencing is now set for March 30.