Former drug dealer, Los Angeles-based Ricky "Freeway" Ross, has been threatening Miami rapper Rick Ross with a lawsuit for a while. But this past Friday his attorney, Melvin Sharpe Jr., finally filed the paperwork in the Los Angeles federal district court. Crossfade got its grubby paws on the full complaint, and it makes for a big eye-raising bundle of legal wordiness.
Defendant Carter a/k/a/ Jay-Z signed Defendant Roberts while President of DEF JAM and at all times relevant hereto, Defendant Carter engaged in RICK ROSS business with Defendants and Roberts, and Shawn Carter gained financially from using RICK ROSS' name, and he established himself as a successful rap music industry executive as a result of his RICK ROSS activities.
In 1995, Defendant Roberts was a college freshman at Albany State U., GA who dropped out after a year then became employed as a full-time Dade County FL Corrections Officer in 1996 for almost 2 years, a fact Roberts denied publicly, when confronted by online urban media sites about his correctional officer past, and Roberts lied about being a C.O. until proof of his employment was produced, and Roberts misrepresented publicly he had a criminal past, false and misleading representations of past facts likely to cause confusion, and deceive the public as to his affiliation with Plaintiff, who objected to Roberts' use of his name.
In 2006, and all times relevant hereto, Def Jam was controlled by Chariman Antonio "LA" Reid and then President Shawn Carter who conspired with Defendants to commercially exploit Plaintiff's name, and prior criminal image, for Roberts' benefit and use, and promoted William Roberts as "Rick Ross," by exploiting the name's commercial value with the Black, urban crime, rap, entertainment "public...."
At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Shawn Carter represented that he wa sa drug dealer in the 1980's and 1990's before becoming a major top rap star, and he talked about his drug dealer past on TV and records, and as President of Def Jam by 2006, Carter knew or should've known about or been aware of Rick Ross and his crime story, his past reputation for being a major drug kingpin from LA, and popularity in the Black community in the 1980s and 90s....
....Defendant William Leonard Roberts, II, who trades as, did business as and performed as the ex-drug-dealing rapper named Rick Ross, fraudulently with intent to knowingly deceive the public about his true non-drug correctional and law enforcement background, and Defendants joined the scheme by bankrolling him using Roberts' false Rick Ross name and image in commerce, which name was well known in criminal, drug and law enforcement circles that Defendant Roberts either knew of, worked in, or could have learned about while in college, in the rap music culture that emulates and idolizes urban criminals and dealers, in the Black community, or from his correctional officer employment in 1996, or any time thereafter when Plaintiff was in prison, but his name was in the news.
Plaintiff Rick Ross didn't register his common law or federal trademark or trade name, but Plaintiff lawfully used his name in commerce beginning in 1999, while Plaintiff was still in prison, and his name and trademark "RICK ROSS" was first in commerce "lawfully" after 20 years of unlawful use in commerce, in 1999, as Plaintiff authorized commercial release of "100 KILOS," a major movie.
...This false criminal image gained from using Rick Ross' name gave Roberts credibility in rap and helped sell music because in rap music prior to the success of Eminem and Kanye West, most rappers had, or claimed a criminal background that they survived, then rose to success [sic]....
Plaintiff Rick Ross had a bad and criminal identity attached to his name, but now he wants to control the usage of the name so that he can associate his name with the good and lawful purposes he intends to use it for, since he's out of prison and involved in entertainment and motivational speaking....
Injury to the Plaintiff's right of publicity is not just limited to present or future economic loss but includes humiliation, embarrassment and emotional or mental distress, and Defendants caused Plaintiff humiliation and mental distress.
WHEREFORE Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants William Roberts, Carter, DEF JAM, UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP et al. in excess of $10,000,000.00, exclusive of interest, court costs, attorneys' fees, compensatory, punitive, statutory, and treble damages.... [As well as] other injunctive, equitable relief preventing Defendants from use of Plaintiff's name in Commerce ... [including an] asset freeze on Defendant Roberts royalties, [and an order to] prohibit Defendants' release of 2010 music projects in RICK ROSS name.....
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