Reason Roundup

Kesha Defamed Former Producer in Private Text to Lady Gaga About Rape, Says Judge

Plus: Maybe Buttigieg didn't win Iowa? Vermont considers decriminalizing prostitution. Customs and Border Protection gets a status change. And more...


Judge rules pop star Kesha guilty of defamation for texting rape allegation about former producer. The pop star and the producer, Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, have been in a long-running legal battle, with Gottwald suing Kesha for alleged defamation and breach of contract. On Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter granted summary judgement to Gottwald on both claims.

Kesha "made a false statement to Lady Gaga about Gottwald and that was defamatory," Schecter wrote in the decision. In a private text message exchange, Kesha accused Gottwald of having raped singer Katy Perrya claim Perry later denied in court.

Kesha has also publicly accused her former producer of drugging and raping her. Gottwald alleges that she made up the story to get out of her recording contract with him.

What makes this case interesting, regardless of who you believe is telling the truth, is the circumstances of the ruling. Many people think of defamation as dealing only in public statements, but as the judge wrote:

Publication of a false statement to even one person, here Lady Gaga, is sufficient to impose liability.

Schecter also decided that although Gottwald is in the entertainment industry, he does not qualify as a public figure. If the subject of supposed defamation is a public figure, the statements about them must not only be false or harmful but also shown to have been spread maliciously or with "gross irresponsibility."

"Though Gottwald has sought publicity for his label, his music, and his artistsnone of which are the subject of the defamation herehe never injected himself into the public debate about sexual assault or abuse of artists in the entertainment industry," states Schecter's ruling. "The only reason Gottwald has any public connection to the issues raised in this lawsuit is because they were raised in this lawsuit."

Since Schecter determined that Gottwald didn't count as a public figure, his lawyers didn't have to prove that Kesha intended harm in her text about him.

The judge ordered Kesha to pay Gottwald $374,000 in interest on late royalty payments.

"We disagree with the Court's rulings. We plan to immediately appeal," said Kesha's lawyer in a statement.

The larger case is still ongoing.


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is being reclassified as a "security agency." What does that mean? CNN explains:

One of the implications of the change is that information that might usually be made public could be redacted in Freedom of Information Act requests, sparking concerns among lawyers and advocates, who worry that it could shield personnel from being held accountable for wrongdoing.


Bill to decriminalize prostitution introduced in Vermont. The measure, introduced by Burlington state Rep. Selene Colburn of the Progressive Party, heads to the Vermont House floor this week. "Right now sex workers really feel that they cannot access police protection," Colburn told the Associated Press. "There are tons of statistics about the violence, the high levels of violence, and sex assault that people who engage in sex work experience."


Iowa update: 

"There is evidence the party has not accurately tabulated some of its results, including those released late Thursday that the party reported as complete," reports AP.

More on the errors in Iowa and the resulting confusion here.