lawsuits

Is Nicki Minaj Trying to Distract Us From Her Legal Trouble?

Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Nicki Minaj is, most recently, the woman responsible for a slew of unfortunate tweets otherwise known as “ball gate.” But some suspect the nation’s preeminent vaccine skeptic may have staged a Twitter meltdown to distract from a bigger scandal: a lawsuit alleging she’s been harassing a woman who accused her husband of sexual assault. Regardless of her intent, her anti-vaxx fiasco appears to have backfired. In addition to spreading misinformation and feuding with public-health officials, Minaj has also drawn even more attention to her current legal trouble. Then, on Wednesday, the woman behind the lawsuit appeared on The Real to give a harrowing account of her experience with Minaj and her husband. Here’s what we know.

Minaj and her husband are being sued for harassing a woman who says he raped her in 1994.

On August 13, Minaj and her husband Kenneth Petty were hit with a lawsuit from Jennifer Hough, who says the couple has been harassing her to recant her report of Petty raping her in 1994. At the time of the assault, both Petty and Hough were 16 and living in Jamaica, Queens. In September 1994, Hough told police that Petty had forced her into a house at knifepoint and raped her. In an interview with The Real, she recalled Petty beating his chest in the mirror after the attack and saying, “I’m the man.” Eventually, she was able to escape and run to her high school, where security guards called the police.

Petty pled guilty to attempted rape and served four and a half years in prison, but not before he and his friends harassed Hough and her family to take back her statement, according to a Daily Beast report from earlier this year. She maintains that she never expressed a desire to recant, though her family tried to convince her to drop the charges to end the harassment.

Nicki Minaj has been saying her husband was falsely accused for years.

In 2018, Minaj posted an Instagram photo with Petty, who was, at the time, her new boyfriend. Commenters and media outlets brought up the conviction, and Minaj responded, claiming that Petty was younger than Hough and they were in a relationship at the time of the attack — both of which Hough denies (and neither of which would disqualify the attack from being sexual assault). Hough said on Wednesday that seeing Minaj’s response, delivered to her thousands of followers, was “like reliving it again.” Minaj also said on her Apple Music show in 2019 that Hough had written a letter recanting the accusations after reporting them, which Hough also says isn’t true.

According to Hough, it wasn’t until last year that the harassment really started.

In March 2020, Petty was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender in California, at which point multiple friends and family members reached out to Hough to check on her. She says she suspected the arrest would “open up a can of worms for me and my family,” assuming Petty would do whatever he could to get himself off the sex-offender registry. Hough says in the lawsuit that she told one of the friends who reached out that she wished the whole case would go away — at which point her friend said, “I can make that happen.” Soon, Hough says he was telling her that Nicki Minaj wanted her number.

According to the lawsuit, Minaj first called Hough directly, offering to fly her to L.A. if Hough could “help out” by signing a prepared statement taking back the allegations. Minaj also allegedly offered to send her own publicist out to Hough to write a statement. Hough says she declined, telling Minaj, “I need you to know, woman-to-woman, that this happened.”

Then, the lawsuit says, associates of the couple started reaching out, offering various amounts of money for Hough to recant. Hough says they also sent lawyers who offered her advice on how to take back what she’d said without facing too many legal ramifications. One offer allegedly included a stipulation that Nicki Minaj would send birthday videos to Hough’s daughter. At some point, Hough and her daughter told the Daily Beast, an associate of the couple — the same friend, according to Hough’s lawyer, that initially made the connection with Minaj — showed up at her house, put $20,000 in cash in her lap, and offered her a prewritten recantation statement, which she rejected. After that, she said on The Real, she received a message saying “they’re gonna use that money to put on my head.” More recently, her lawyer says, the same associate “posted an Instagram video threatening to kill or do bodily harm to Jennifer.”

Hough has no plans to take back her accusations, though she says she’s scared for her life.

Throughout all this, Hough has moved three times, including out of Georgia and away from her 22-year-old daughter after she says her daughter was approached in a club by a man asking if she knew Petty. She’s changed her phone number. She says she hasn’t been able to work since last March, citing “severe depression, paranoia, constant moving, harassment, and threats.” Her lawsuit states that she’s “currently living in isolation out of fear of retaliation.”

It’s unclear if Minaj and her husband have yet been served, and the couple’s lawyers and representatives have not yet commented publicly on the suit.

Is Nicki Minaj Trying to Distract Us From Her Legal Trouble?