If you ever found yourself wondering why the pop star Kesha seemed to mysteriously disappear after so many top 10 singles and successful albums, the answer might surprise you. It isn’t because of a drug problem or a lack of interest, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The star has been caught in a legal battle with her former long-time producer and collaborator, Dr. Luke, for almost three years now. The artist has claimed Dr. Luke physically and sexually abused her on multiple occasions, and if the lawsuit isn’t resolved soon, Kesha’s career is going to die young.
Fans and feminists across the net took to social media to start #FreedomForKesha on Tuesday, attempting to raise awareness for Kesha’s struggle and Dr. Luke’s abuse. In the midst of the campaign, the singer’s attorney, Mark Geragos, compared her struggle to that of Bill Cosby’s rape victims, saying that Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald) is “a vindictive, evil man” and that it’s only a matter of time until more of his victims step forward.
“He used her, abused her, and that’s how he operates,” Geragos told The Daily Beast. “Ask anybody who’s ever worked with him throughout all this litigation. I defy you to find one artist who has come to his defense.”
Christine Lepera, Gottwald’s attorney, refuted the claims, saying Kesha’s legal woes are “entirely of her making”.
“It was Kesha who chose to file a lawsuit falsely alleging abuse to gain advantage in contract negotiations, and now she must accept the consequences of her improper actions,” said Lepera in a statement on Monday.
Geragos responded by saying that Lepera is “blaming the victim”, stating that her comments are equivalent to someone telling Bill Cosby’s rape accusers that they’ve caused their own problems by coming out publicly about their distress.
According to her lawsuit filed in October 2014, Gottwald allegedly drugged the artist with and without her consent, raped her, physically abused her, and then effectively held her career hostage. The exploitation began shortly after Gottwald discovered Kesha Rose Sebert as an 18 year old high-school student. Kesha explained in court papers that the music producer persuaded her to drop out of high school and move to Los Angeles from her home in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming abusive after she signed to his music production company.
Last week, the 28 year old pop star pushed for a court injunction to force the judge to make a decision, since she’s still stuck in her contract with Sony and Dr. Luke despite desperately wanting to work with other producers and record labels. So far the injunction doesn’t seem like it made an impact, but Kesha’s lawyer warns that her “brand value has fallen” from the ordeal, saying that if the lawsuit isn’t settled promptly, “Kesha will suffer irreparable harm, plummeting her career past the point of no return.”
“Dr. Luke has been tyrannical and abusive since our relationship began,” Kesha said in an Aug. 31 affidavit. “I was too young and naive to even understand what he was doing to me. I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way. He has threatened me many times. ‘Three strikes and you’re out,’ he told me.”
She went on to detail how Gottwald would allegedly “boast and brag […] about how he liked to take girls out on a first date, get them as drunk as possible, and ‘f*ck them in the ass.'” She then described one occasion where Gottwald pressured her to snort drugs before they got on a flight, on which he purportedly forced himself on her while she was intoxicated. The singer was so wasted that she vomited on herself, claim the court filings. Kesha stated that in another instance the producer forced her to drink with him, and then gave her pills that he called “sober pills”. She then woke up the following afternoon, “naked in Dr. Luke’s bed, sore and sick, with no memory of how she got there”, according to the court records. She quickly called her mother and explained the situation, saying that she needed to go to the ER, later finding out that Gottwald had given her gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), otherwise known as the date rape drug. To top it off, Gottwald then allegedly took her to the beach sometime after the incident and threatened to ‘destroy her career and her family’ if she told anyone about the rape.
“Ms. Sebert wholly believed that Dr. Luke had the power and money to carry out his threats; she therefore never dared talk about, let alone report, what Dr. Luke had done to her,” her lawsuit explains.
Additionally, Kesha claims that Gottwald would occasionally insult her appearance and song writing skills, sometimes in front of others, allegedly saying things like “You are not that pretty, you are not that talented, you are just lucky to have me”, “There are a million other girls out there like you”, and at one point, calling her a “fat f*cking refrigerator”. Gottwald also allegedly attacked her in his Malibu home, with the court papers stating he was “screaming and violently thrashing his arms at her.” Kesha then escaped his house, ran down the Pacific Coast Highway barefoot and climbed into nearby mountains to hide.
She claims the constant physical and verbal abuse drove her to develop bulimia, and the star checked herself into a rehab center in Illinois in January 2014. There she recorded 14 new songs which she is currently sitting on, according to Teen Vogue, and dropped the ‘$’ stylization in her stage name.
On June 9, 2015, Kesha revised her complaint against Gottwald and added Sony Music Entertainment into the fray.
“Dr. Luke’s proclivity for abusive conduct was open and obvious to [Sony Music Entertainment] executives, who either knew of the conduct and turned a blind eye, failed to investigate Dr. Luke’s conduct, failed to take any corrective action, or actively concealed Dr. Luke’s abuse.” explained her lawyer.
The 41 year old producer has denied the abuse allegations, and launched a counter-claim in which he accuses Kesha, her mother Pebe, and her manager of starting “a highly public extortion and smear campaign” for the purpose of forcing him to terminate their contract. A spokesperson for Gottwald also stated that “This is not about blaming any victim, because Kesha stated in her sworn testimony that she was not a victim,” referring to her previous testimony.
In 2010, Kesha’s former management company, DAS Communications filed a suit against both her and Gottwald. While she was discovered by Dr. Luke as a teenager a decade before, she also signed a rep deal with DAS’ David Sonenberg around the same time, who came close to bringing Kesha to Warner Bros. Records, reports Billboard. The singer was complaining to DAS about how Gottwald had “engaged in certain unethical and unlawful actions against her and that she did not want Gottwald to be part of her career going forward” as early as 2005, court papers claim. That year, her attorneys began investigating the enforceability of her recording agreement, and Dr. Luke’s attorneys were given notice that Kesha was denying any responsibility for her deal with DAS. Three years later, she fired Sonenberg to return to Gottwald. DAS then retaliated by suing her and the producer over commissions. When they brought up her past statements about Gottwald, she testified that she was “fortunate to have the attention and support of Dr. Luke” and that it was instead DAS that “poisoned” her relationship with the producer, saying flat out: “Luke never made sexual advances at me”.
So there’s clearly more going on behind the scenes than we are aware, but the question of who is telling the truth remains. Of course, intimidation could be a clear reason as to why the pop star initially dismissed her claims against Gottwald before they resurfaced, but it’s also possible that the producer is telling the truth – that Kesha is simply trying to smear Dr. Luke’s name.
“There’s a long tradition in the entertainment business of artists resorting to litigation to get themselves out of contracts and other things they’re unhappy with,” says attorney Larry Iser of Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP, who was not associated with the case. Furthermore, Gottwald’s aggressive counter-sue suggests that he isn’t afraid of others stepping forward, while Kesha’s account suggests that drugging and raping is something he frequently does. However this could imply a multitude of things; maybe Gottwald just has enough influence in the music industry that he simply doesn’t need to worry about other victims speaking out, because if they do he can deny it and completely demolish their career. The producer is very well known for making hit after hit, and has worked with many big-name artists such as Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Kelly Clarkson. So it’s really just as possible that Kesha is telling the truth.
Who do you believe?