Hip-Hop Fridays: Star's $55 Million Lawsuit Against John C. Liu
[Editor's Note: What follows is the the text of the complaint and lawsuit filed at noon on Wednesday, August 2nd 2006 by Troi Torrain (a.k.a. Star) against John C. Liu (New York City Councilman). The filing took place in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.]Plaintiff,
JAMES P. CINQUE, Esq.
CINQUE & CINQUE, P.C.
New York, New York, 10022
Attorneys for Plaintiff
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
06 CIV. (ECF Case)
JOHN C. LIU,
Jury Trial Demanded
Plaintiff Troi Torain by his attorneys Cinque & Cinque, P. C., for his complaint alleges:
PARTIES AND JURISDICTION
1. Plaintiff Troi Torain is a resident of the State of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff was a disc jockey on the New York hip-hop radio station WWPR-FM (commonly known as “Power 105.1") during the period from approximately January 17, 2005 to May 10, 2006.
2. Defendant John C. Liu is a resident of the State of New York and a member of the New York City Council with offices in City Hall.
3. The Council defines itself as:
the law-making body of the City of New York. It is comprised of 51 members from 51 different Council Districts throughout the five boroughs. The Council monitors the operation and performance of city agencies, makes land use decisions and has sole responsibility for approving the city’s budget...
Defendant’s actions complained of herein do not arise out of, relate to or concern his status or duties as a New York City Council member. Rather, they occurred outside the scope of his office and privilege as an elected New York City Council member and are the product of naked and unrestrained self-promotion, advancement, and aggrandizement at the expense of those he attacks.
4. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) in that it is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000.00 exclusive of interest and costs.
5. Defendant regularly uses his status as an elected City official to pursue his self-promotion and political advancement through personal crusades entirely outside the scope of his elected office against people and entities in the media whom he selects as convenient targets. One of these happens to be the hip-hop genre and media which, because of its cutting edge and controversial nature, readily lends itself to defendant’s goal of self-promotion. By way of illustration, in or about February of 2005 defendant insinuated himself into a situation at WQHT-FM (commonly known as “Hot 97"), where its morning crew had aired a spoof which mocked the victims of the South Asian tsunami and farcically threatened to shoot Asians. Seizing upon the opportunity to get his name before the media and improperly using his status as a Council member, defendant issued a series of press releases at the time in which he proclaimed that radio stations such as New York hip-hop radio stations “Power 105.1" and “Hot 97” engage in a pattern and practice of what Liu conveniently characterized as “hate programming”.
6. Improperly using his office as Councilman, defendant has also insinuated into hip-hop radio station promotion efforts by his protests against “smackfest” fights which were broadcast by “Hot 97" during 2005, stating that the owner of the station has “broken the public trust by profiting from hate and violence.”
7. Typical of the give and take between competitive hip-hop disc jockeys, in the latter part of April and early May 2006 a “war of words” was being waged between plaintiff and the morning crew at “Hot 97,” via known insult games such as snaps or The Dozens, where the disc jockeys trade insults or barbs with each other. This was the subject of extensive media coverage and commentary. For example, New York Daily News radio commentator David Hinckley had just recently commented on this “battle.” In his regular column of May 4, 2006 he wrote: “Star’s fans also have been hearing a new round of his own greatest hits – the ones he exchanges with one-time partner and now morning rival Miss Jones on WQHT (97.1 FM). When they refer to each other as ‘the impotent dwarf’ and ‘the gap-toothed b-’ its clear the game is on.” On May 8, 2006 he wrote in his column that plaintiff’s show as “talk-intensive, and often talk-intense, because he loves to provoke. Women often become ‘b–es,’ hip-hop fans become ‘savages,’ and all ethnic groups are known by their street names.”
8. During the first week of May 2006, as part of this “war of words” plaintiff made statements concerning his rival’s child which, given the entire context, were clearly not serious nor would any reasonable listener deem them so. Soon after his utterances, plaintiff publicly apologized.
9. No reasonable person or listener could have believed plaintiff’s statements to be an actual threat when viewed in their entire context. Moreover, at the time defendant certainly knew of the hip-hop radio “hate campaign,” or in the exercise of reasonable discretion should have known of the “feud” which was on-going. Nevertheless, in an effort to call attention to himself and acting outside of and far beyond his duties and privileges as a Councilman, defendant took it upon himself to announce feigned affront and chagrin, asserting that he truly believed plaintiff’s remarks were genuine threats against the child of the rival disc jockey.
10. Thus, on May 10, 2006, availing himself of his status as a New York City Councilman, defendant arranged a press conference at City Hall and stated in both the electronic and printed media that: “This guy [plaintiff] is a sick pedophile loser who obviously has self-esteem issues. These kinds of threats broadcast on major radio stations over our public airwaves cannot go unanswered. Clear Channel Communications, which owns Power 105 and profits from this type of hate radio, needs to take responsibility. Start with firing this lunatic immediately.”
11. The foregoing statement constitutes actionable defamation. The factual assertion that plaintiff is a pedophile constitutes defamation per se.
12. By way of further publication of his willful, malicious and defamatory statements and utterances, and as evidence of his actual malice towards plaintiff, defendant not only appeared at a City Hall press conference but also was a guest on the New York City cable channel New York 1 program “Inside City Hall,” appeared live on the “O’Reilly Factor” television program which is aired nationwide, and issued public pronouncements, press releases and statements which included:
(a) a demand that plaintiff be fired from his position at “Power 105.1." Plaintiff was in fact terminated on May 10, 2006;
(b) letters to the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York City Police Commissioner demanding a criminal investigation, which resulted in plaintiff’s arrest;
(c ) a statement on May 10, 2006 that plaintiff should be “terminated from the face of the earth;”
(d) a remark on May 11, 2006 on New York 1 that plaintiff “needs to be behind bars;”
(e) a statement on May 11, 2006 on “The O’Reilly Factor:” “And we’re happy that he’s been fired, but more has to be done because otherwise it will just go on with someone else. This [Clear Channel Corporation] is a major corporation. They hired Troi Torain after he had been fired by the rival station for making totally inexcusable remarks over the airwaves.” This latter statement was false and was known by defendant to be so at the time he made it , or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, defendant could have and should have determined that this statement was not correct; and
(f) After the criminal charges against plaintiff were resolved in open Court on July 27, 2006 defendant expressed dissatisfaction with the judicial process and the New York City criminal justice system which as a Councilman he is sworn to uphold. Defendant stated he was disappointed with the disposition and that the Court should have required some additional penalty or punishment prescribed by his own fiat, such as an order that plaintiff’s former employer donate money to “an organization that fights child predators because that’s what they were supporting by this broadcast.”
13. On May 9, 2006 defendant defamed plaintiff by publically stating that plaintiff’s employer terminate the “racist pedophile” for “[violating] Federal regulations.”
14. On May 10, 2006 defendant stated: “We will simply not allow racist pedophiles to use the airwaves to harass children and families, and create an atmosphere of hate, violence and bigotry in our community.”
15. At the May 10, 2006 City Hall press conference defendant stated: “The guy who put this over the radio is clearly a loser pedophile;” and “You can’t broadcast threats against people like this. And these are real threats.... This isn’t about being indecent, this is about being criminal.”
16. On May 11, 2006 on New York 1's Inside City Hall program defendant uttered the statement that plaintiff was a “sick racist pedophile.”
17. On May 11, 2006 Liu issued the following statement: “This termination sends a strong message to other would-be broadcaster pedophiles who plan to use our public airwaves to satisfy their sick fantasies. It’s good that Troi Torain is off the air, but now he must be put behind bars for spewing these threats against a little 4-year old girl.”
18. On May 12, 2006 in a libelous statement disseminated to the media defendant stated: “It’s so fitting that the Hate Crimes unit took action and we are grateful to Commissioner Kelly and District Attorney Morgenthau for moving quickly against this criminal. This is a real consequence for Torain and sends a real message to other would-be racist pedophile radio stooges that they are not immune from the law.”
19. Putting himself above the judicial process, and using his privilege and status as a member of the New York City Council on May 15, 2006 defendant stated: “Clear Channel [plaintiff’s employer] thought it fit to broadcast a pedophile’s fantasy, so I think it’s only fair and appropriate for them to cough up $5,000,000.00.”
FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF
20. The words spoken and written of and concerning plaintiff by defendant are false and defamatory per se.
21. By reason of such false and defamatory words having been spoken and written of and concerning plaintiff, plaintiff has been held up to disgrace and ridicule and injured in his reputation.
22. By reason of the foregoing, plaintiff has sustained damages in the minimum sum of $5 million.
23. Defendant’s statements were made with actual malice and for the sole purpose of self-promotion and aggrandizement of defendant at plaintiff’s expense. The defamation was so gross, wanton and malicious so as to entitle plaintiff to recover punitive and exemplary damages in the minimum sum of $50 million.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment against Liu for compensatory damages in the minimum sum of $5 million, punitive and exemplary damages in the minimum sum of $50 million, together with interest, costs, disbursements and other relief the Court deems just and proper.
CINQUE & CINQUE, P. C.
By: James P. Cinque Attorneys for Plaintiff,
Friday, August 4, 2006