Rapper Nicki Minaj and husband sued, accused of harassing rape victim

Rapper Nicki Minaj married husband Kenneth Petty in 2019. PHOTO: NICKIMINAJ/INSTAGRAM

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A woman who accused rapper Nicki Minaj's husband Kenneth Petty of sexual assault during high school filed a lawsuit against the couple last Friday (Aug 13), alleging that they harassed and intimidated her while trying to convince her to recant her account.

The case dates to 1994, when Ms Jennifer Hough, then 16, reported to the police that Petty - a 16-year-old she had known growing up in Queens - had raped her after leading her into a home at knifepoint, the lawsuit says.

Petty was arrested that day and was charged with first-degree rape, and subsequently pleaded guilty to attempted rape, said Ms Kim Livingston, a spokesman with the Queens district attorney's office. He served about 4½ years in prison, according to inmate records.

According to the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Eastern New York, Ms Hough, 43, and her family members started to receive communications from people claiming to be connected with Minaj and Petty shortly after he was arrested last year for failing to register as a sex offender in California.

The lawsuit alleges harassment and witness intimidation, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress by Minaj and Petty, and seeks unspecified damages. It also alleges sexual assault and battery, referring to the mid-1990s case.

A representative for Minaj did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Petty, Mr Michael Goldstein, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that an intermediary offered Ms Hough US$20,000 (S$27,000) in exchange for signing a prepared statement recanting the accusation. At one point last year, the lawsuit says, Minaj called Ms Hough, saying she heard Ms Hough was willing to "help out".

Days later, it adds, Ms Hough and her family members received an "onslaught of harassing calls and unsolicited visits" from people she believed to be associated with the couple.

Ms Hough "has not worked since May 2020 due to severe depression, paranoia, constant moving, harassment and threats from the defendants and their associates", the lawsuit says. "She is currently living in isolation out of fear of retaliation."

After Petty was arrested in 2020, Ms Hough reconnected with a childhood friend from Queens, the lawsuit says, and told him she "wished it could all just go away forever". Ms Hough said the friend replied: "I can make that happen."

The suit says that a few days later, the friend told Ms Hough that Minaj had asked for her phone number, and that the rapper later called and offered to fly Ms Hough to Los Angeles or fly her publicist to Ms Hough.

Ms Hough said she declined and told Minaj: "I need you to know, woman to woman, that this happened."

The lawsuit says there were then a series of encounters where Ms Hough or her family members were offered inducements if she would recant: US$500,000 at one point, US$20,000 at another, with a proposed bonus that Minaj would send birthday videos to Ms Hough's daughter. Ms Hough said she declined.

"If I lie now and say that I lied then, you know what that does?" she said. "Do you know what that's going to say to my two little girls, or even my sons?"

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