Kid Rock’s been accused of a lot of things, usually along the lines of attacking photographers and making sex tapes. But the most recent allegations are the type usually reserved for people like the Sopranos.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Wayne County, Michigan, the rap-rocker and his lawyers have been accused of violating the RICO Act, a set of federal laws used to prosecute organized-crime cases.
Rock’s former business associates Alvin Williams and Earl Blunt of EB-Bran Productions have been battling the musician over copyright and trademark infringement claims for the past few years (see “Kid Rock To Remain Top Dog, Court Says” ). But in the course of dealing with that lawsuit, EB-Bran lawyer Francois Nabwangu contends Rock’s team — including his lawyers, music labels and others — entered into a conspiracy to steal the copyright at the center of that case through money laundering, racketeering, perjury, tampering with a witness, retaliating against a witness, threatening an officer of the court and extortion. The RICO Act provides extended penalties for organized-crime acts.
“My case deals with extortion, mainly,” Nabwangu said. “They tried to use the court proceedings to extort copyright. And you can’t threaten somebody to give up their intellectual property.”
During the course of the copyright-infringement lawsuit (which was dismissed but is being appealed), Rock’s team sought sanctions against EB-Bran’s team — sanctions Nabwangu said were used to try to force them to give up their original claim. Among other things, he cites phone calls made in 2003 by Rock’s lawyers, as well as a letter written in January 2006, in which one of Rock’s lawyers, William Horton, offered to drop the motion in exchange for the transfer of copyrights and other interests.
“He demanded all copyright to any material, ‘all right, title and interest,’ ” Nabwangu said. “And that’s not the first time he’s done it. When you start threatening people, when you misrepresent to the court what your interests are, when you file falsely in court, when you start threatening attorneys who are part of the proceedings, and when you get into extortion, that’s where it becomes criminal.”
Kid Rock’s team disputes the charges and calls the lawsuit a “shameless ploy” to gain leverage in the upcoming sanctions hearing. Rock’s lawyer Michael Novak said the sanctions would amount to $40,000 — not the millions Friday’s lawsuit asks for — and said the offer to exchange sanctions for copyright was innocent in its intention.
“To call a settlement discussion ‘extortion’ is a mind-boggling stretch,” Novak said. “They’re trying to claim a conspiracy, and that’s totally silly and utterly meritless. It overstates the case. It’s reckless, and it’s just wrong. I don’t think the court will be too amused by the whole thing.”
A hearing hasn’t been set in the extortion case; the sanctions hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.