Why Judge Ruled Kesha's Alleged Rape Was Not a 'Gender-Motivated Hate Crime'

Yesterday a New York Supreme Court judge dismissed most of Kesha's case against Dr. Luke, rejecting her lawyer's claims that her relationship with Sony was tantamount to slavery.

by Cole Kazdin
Apr 7 2016, 4:00pm

Photo by Amy Lombard

Kesha's latest legal battle has fallen flat. Yesterday afternoon, a New York Supreme Court Justice dismissed nearly all of Kesha's counterclaims against her former producer Dr. Luke, in a huge blow to the pop star's case and an equally huge win for Sony and Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald.

Kesha was hoping to get an emergency order in another attempt to extricate herself from her contract with Sony. The singer had filed counterclaims against Sony and Gottwald in New York for violation of New York State Human Rights Law, saying that she experienced sexual harassment and "gender-motivated violence," according to court papers, and that Gottwald's alleged harassment qualified as a hate crime.

The judge didn't agree. "Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime," Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich wrote in her decision— a statement that some have criticized as dismissive and tone-deaf.

Under New York law, Kesha would have had to prove Dr. Luke "harbored animus towards women or was motivated by gender animus when he allegedly behaved violently toward Kesha," wrote Kornreich.

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Per Kornreich, the only allegation that meets the legal standard of "physical violence or property damage" was Kesha's claim that Dr. Luke assaulted her on an airplane and then raped her in a hotel room in 2008, which is outside the five-year statute of limitations.

Dr. Luke has repeatedly denied the pop star's allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

Kornreich also dismissed Kesha's claim of "intentional infliction of emotional distress" because the judge believes Kesha's allegations "do not meet the strict leading standard," which in New York is defined as mental trauma or bodily harm. In addition, Kornreich found that Dr. Luke's alleged demeaning remarks about Kesha's value as an artist, her looks, and her weight do not "constitute extreme, outrageous conduct intolerable in civilized society," which is part of the legal threshold for proving emotional distress.

Part of Kesha's appeal, as stated in a legal brief, was the argument that "[t]he Court erred in basing its decision on finding that Kesha could record without interference from Gottwald. Although it recognized that 'slavery was done away with a long time ago' and that '[y]ou can't force someone to work ... in a situation in which they don't want to work.. '[i]t's slavery. You can't do that.'"

Kornreich disagreed, saying that Sony was not forcing Kesha to work only with Luke and that the company had offered her other producers. The judge deemed Kesha's refusal to accept this proposed solution unreasonable.

Earlier this week, Kesha posted on her Instagram, claiming that she had been offered her freedom in exchange for denying the rape allegations against Dr. Luke. In the caption of a selfie, she wrote, "so. I got offered my freedom IF i were to lie. I would have to APOLOGIZE publicly and say that I never got raped. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS behind closed doors. I will not take back the TRUTH. I would rather let the truth ruin my career than lie for a monster ever again."

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Dr. Luke told Broadly that wasn't true. "The Court repeatedly stated Kesha is already free to record without Dr. Luke, and that she had not presented any facts supporting her claims. That's because all the evidence— including Kesha's own videotaped sworn testimony— show her allegations are false."

Kesha has argued that working with another Sony producer could harm her career and that she just wants to be free from Sony and Dr. Luke.

Since the February ruling, where Kornreich refused to let her out of her contract with Sony, there has been an outpouring of celebrity support for Kesha, including from Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga.

Lawyers for Dr. Luke and SME declined to comment. Lawyers for Kesha did not respond to Broadly's request for comment.