Everything You Need to Know About Kesha’s Case

by Maggie Stamets

Kesha has been in the midst of a legal battle with her label Sony and manager Dr. Luke, who she is accusing of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. There are a lot of moving parts in this case and with the rapid pace of these (mostly) disappointing court cases, we thought we would give you a breakdown of Kesha’s case.

• Dr. Luke signs Kesha to Sony and the 18-year-old chains herself to his label Kemosabe in an eight-album contract in 2005.

• In 2012, Kesha recorded her second album Warrior and has yet to record another.

• By 2013, fans started protesting to #FreeKesha from Dr. Luke and the lengthy contract to which she is bound.  Her fans believed she was a “Pop Puppet” under the control of Dr. Luke, who was forcing her to record songs against her will and artistically holding her back.

• In early 2014 Kesha went to rehab for an eating disorder after nearly dying from low blood sugar and sodium levels. It was revealed later that she was suffering verbal abuse from Dr. Luke who would frequently make comments about her weight—in one claim, Kesha says he called her a “fat fucking refrigerator.” She first filed suit against Dr. Luke in October, citing many times Dr. Luke abused her and took advantage of her position as his client.

In her claim, she stated that he has been sexually assaulting her since she was first signed with him when she was 18. Dr. Luke quickly filed a countersuit for defamation, claiming Kesha and her mother were slandering his good name in the industry. Kesha’s representatives at Vector Management for defamation and breach of contract, claiming that the “false and shocking accusations” and Kesha’s refusal to record were tantamount to extortion.

Kesha’s Suit Highlights:

  • Dr. Luke drugged Kesha before a flight by making her “snort an illicit drug” and then raped her while she was intoxicated. 
  • Dr. Luke forced Kesha to drink with him, then gave her what he called “sober pills.” She woke up the next day naked in his bed, sore, sick and with no recollection of how she got there.
  • Dr. Luke told Kesha “that if she ever mentioned the rape to anyone, he would shut her career down and otherwise destroy not only her life but her entire family’s lives as well.” And she had every reason that he had the power and means to follow through on his threats.
  • Kesha was once forced to flee Dr. Luke’s home in Malibu after he threatened her physically. She ran barefoot down the Pacific Coast Highway and hid in the nearby mountains.

In February of 2016, the legal ball started to roll when Kesha filed an injunction to free her from her contract binding her to Dr. Luke by allowing her to record music outside of Kemosabe. Kesha’s lawyer filed the injunction because a pop star’s career has a shelf life and by taking such a long hiatus Kesha’s career was being “irreparably harmed.”  However, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich didn’t see it that way.

Kornreich said, “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.” The was a blow to Kesha’s case, but it certainly wasn’t the end. This simply meant that Kesha could not record while the legal proceedings were going on. Supposedly, Kesha would be able to record with another producer at Sony, but who would want to record with a label who you are currently suing?

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In the following weeks, rumors spread that Sony had dropped Dr. Luke, although they were later recanted by Dr. Luke’s people. No further announcements about Dr. Luke’s status with Sony have been made to the public.

• On April 7, 2016, Justice Shirley Kornreich’s ruling dismissed all but one of Kesha’s claims against Dr. Luke. Kornreich heard Kesha’s case outlining the abuse she suffered for nearly a decade, including accounts of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Kesha claimed that the rapes she suffered fell under New York’s hate crime act. Kornreich did not agree. She wrote, “Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime.” 

The judge felt that Kesha lacked proof of physical or property damage and the one account that the judge felt had any merit—the assault on the airplane and in the hotel in 2008—happened too long ago and no longer fell under the 5-year statute of limitations. Kornreich wrote that Kesha’s claims of emotional and verbal assaults did not constitute abuse because “insults about her value as an artist, her looks and her weight are insufficient to constitute extreme, outrageous conduct intolerable in civilized society.”

Not only did the judge throw out her case, she removed any opportunity to amend her complaint. The only possible positive outcome for Kesha after this ruling would be for her case to be reopened in California courts.

Sony gave Kesha an opportunity to be free of her contract—lie. The pop star refused to discredit herself and falsify her rape and so is still legally bound to Sony.

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Until then, Kesha is stuck in legal quicksand. She can’t create any new music or record with any other producer. She can only sing songs that she hasn’t written — next month, she’ll sing a Bob Dylan song at a concert celebrating the singer’s birthday. It will be the first time Kesha has performed since her legal battle with Dr. Luke began.

Unfortunately, this is an example of the system working exactly as it was set up to. Victims of sexual assault are forced to prove themselves trustworthy, even more so than proving the accused are guilty. This grows tenfold when a contract with a multimillion dollar company is involved. All there is left to do is hope that Kesha’s case can be heard in another court and she will one day soon be able to record music without being dominated by an abusive man controlling her art, life, and career.

More from BUST

Kesha’s Judge Thinks Rape Isn’t Gender-Motivated

Kesha Stands Up To Dr. Luke And Sony: ‘I Will Not Take Back The TRUTH’

Kesha Can’t Record Music, So She’s Starting A New Career

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