Stop The Presses!

May 4-11: They Fought The Law

Lyndsey Parker
Stop The Presses!

In these tough economic times, layoffs are sadly happening left and right, and even A-list pop stars aren't selling albums like they used to. But there seems to be one line of work not at all affected by the recession: the legal field. Lawyers still have plenty of business coming their way, and many of their customers are in fact A-list pop stars. Here's who was creating disorder in the court this week.

First up, Chris Brown's celebrity attorney, Mark Geragos (the former rep for Michael Jackson), was working overtime this week--and he may have found a loophole in the Chris Brown/Rihanna assault case as a result. This week Mark requested an investigation into that infamous leaked police-file photo of Rihanna's bruised face, which first turned up on TMZ, claiming that the photographic evidence might have been unethically sold to the celebrity gossip site by an actual member of the police. If that turns out to be the case, Mark might have grounds to get charges against his star client (who faces up to five years in prison if convicted) dismissed entirely on a technicality.

Watch this space for more developments on the "Chrianna" saga...

And speaking of Michael Jackson, the frequently legally troubled superstar also found himself needing a lawyer's services again this week, when his publicist and general manager of five years, Raymone Bain, filed suit against him for a cool $44 million. Raymone claimed Jacko didn't pay her for various negotiations she allegedly handled, including those involving the 25th-anniversary reissue of Thriller, the refinancing of a loan so he could maintain ownership of the Beatles' catalog, and Michael's sold-out July 2009 concert residency at the O2 Arena in London.

"Despite the action I have been compelled to take for professional and business reasons, when looking back, I have no regrets," Raymone said in a statement issued last Wednesday. "Michael Jackson, in my opinion, is the 'King of Pop.'" And he's also the King Of Lawsuits, apparently, since this is just the latest case filed by a former associate claiming to have been jacked by Jacko.

Meanwhile, Michael's little sister Janet Jackson may soon be back in court as well--the Supreme Court, that is. Her notorious "wardrobe malfunction" Super Bowl case was sent back for review last Monday, with the Supreme Court ordering a federal appeals court to re-examine its ruling in favor of CBS over the 2004 overexposure incident. Last year the appeals court threw out a $550,000 fine against CBS, deciding that Janet's scandalous live-broadcast breast-baring (which only lasted nine-sixteenths of one second) could not have been anticipated by the network. In a statement issued this week by CBS, the network expressed confidence that the federal court will once again rule in CBS's favor.

Janet, perhaps wisely still trying to distance herself from that nearly career-killing debacle, refrained from commenting on the case.

Another R&B diva associated with legal issues this week was Toni Braxton, after Surinamese Braxton impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn was jailed for allegedly trying to pass herself off as the real deal at a concert in South America. The phony Toni's husband claimed Trina was actually the victim of a local con artist--that she was tricked by a shady concert promoter, who scammed 3,000 Toni-loving ticket-buyers into thinking they'd see the real Toni perform live. (The promoter, Angel Ventura of Events For Suriname, was arrested as well.) The case heads to court May 26, when Trina will go on trial for allegedly attempting to defraud the Toni fans who bought $53 tickets.

But Kathleen Brandon, Trina's Surinamese lawyer, continued to defend her client's innocence, lamenting: "She has done no wrong, so it is difficult for her to spend so much time in jail to await the start of the trial."

In other legal news, 50 Cent ought to give his lawyer a big fat bonus right about now. The week started off well enough for Fiddy, with the rapper claiming that he was officially cleared of having any involvement with a house fire at his ex-girlfriend's home in Long Island last year. (The home, where 50's ex Shaniqua Tompkins and her son Marquis resided, caught on fire in May 2008, at a time when 50 and Shaniqua were embroiled in a legal dispute over his assets, including the $1.4 million estate.) The hip-hop star's triumphant statement on read: "The police department and insurance investigators ruled that there is absolutely no proof or evidence suggesting that Curtis Jackson [aka 50 Cent] or any affiliated parties were involved. Curtis Jackson has just been cleared of all the accusations. The investigation will continue until the guilty party is found."

However, cops weren't exactly letting Curtis off the hook just yet. Detective Thomas Wieland of the Suffolk County police later rebutted 50's statement, saying: "That fire is still under investigation. It hasn't been closed either way." So Fiddy better keep his attorney on retainer, just in case.

In alternative rock legal news, this week former Wilco member Jay Bennett sued his ex-bandmate Jeff Tweedy over at least $50,000 in royalties, claiming he was partially paid for work he did with the alt-country group over the course of seven years and five albums. "As a recording musician in Wilco, Bennett is entitled to compensation for his services rendered in the form of continuing and perpetual artist royalty payments from [Tweedy]," the lawsuit paperwork alleged.

Meanwhile, alt-rock icons Nine Inch Nails came under fire from Apple, when an update of their iPhone app was rejected due to "obscene, pornographic, offensive, or defamatory content." NIN frontman Trent Reznor addressed the Apple controversy on his website, likening the situation to one NIN dealt with previously:

 "I'll voice the same issue I had with Wal-Mart years ago, which is a matter of consistency and hypocrisy," he blogged. "Wal-Mart went on a rampage years ago insisting all music they carry be censored of all profanity and 'clean' versions be made for them to carry. Bands (including Nirvana) tripped over themselves editing out words, changing album art, etc. to meet Wal-Mart's standards of decency--because Wal-Mart sells a lot of records. NIN refused, and you'll notice a pretty empty NIN section at any Wal-Mart. My reasoning was this: I can understand if you want the moral posturing of not having any 'indecent' material for sale--but you could literally turn around 180 degrees from where the NIN record would be and purchase the film Scarface completely uncensored, or buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto where you can be rewarded for beating up prostitutes. How does that make sense?"

However, by the week's end the issue was resolved, and the NIN iPhone app was approved after all. If only Chris, Jacko, Janet, Fiddy, Trina, and Wilco had it so easy.

There's one more alt-rocker who may be headed to court soon, but fortunately in this case it will be to pay a visit to the Justice Of The Peace. White Stripes drummer Meg White--who at one time was legally married to her bandmate Jack White, although they disturbingly claimed to be brother and sister to stir up publicity--announced her engagement this week to musician Jackson Smith, son of punk legend Patti Smith and late MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith. When the Detroit twosome marry later this year, they will no doubt become the ultimate power couple of Motor City rock 'n' roll royalty.

And finally, in a non-legal bit of news but perhaps the most serious story of all, last weekend Adam Cook--the eldest brother of American Idol David Cook--lost his decade-long fight with brain cancer, at the tender age of 37. (Adam's cancer first came to public attention while David was still competing on season 7 of American Idol, when producers famously and generously spent $45,000 flying Adam on a chartered medical jet from Terre Haute, Indiana to an Idol taping.) David cancelled two concerts earlier this year to spend time with his ailing brother, and last Sunday morning at a benefit before the 12th annual Race For Hope 5K in Washington, D.C., he announced the sad news of Adam's passing. He then told the shocked and sympathetic crowd, "I couldn't imagine being anywhere else in the world," and ran in the race as planned, raising $98,000 for brain cancer research with his team.

And on that sad note, thus concludes another week in music news. Come back next week for more headlines, and have a great Mother's Day weekend in the meantime.



1) David Cook Suffers Family Tragedy - The Idol's ailing brother dies of cancer at age 37.

2) Chris Brown To Get Off? - His assault case may be dismissed on a technicality.

3) Legal Action Against Jackson - Michael is sued by yet another former associate.

4) Liar Liar, House On Fire? - 50 Cent claims he's been cleared of arson charges, but police say he's not off the hook just yet.

5) Janet Jackson Still Bowled Over - Her Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" case is going back to court.

6) Apple Makes Nine Inch Nails Hurt - NIN's iPhone app is rejected for allegedly inappropriate content.

7) White Wedding - White Stripes drummer Meg White is getting hitched.

8) Back To Blackout - Amy Winehouse collapses again, this time in St. Lucia.

9) He Is Trying to Break His Heart - Jay Bennett sues ex-Wilco bandmate Jeff Tweedy.

10) Phony Toni - An impersonator is accused of trying to swindle 3,000 ticket-buying Toni Braxton fans.

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