Memphitz loses defamation case against ‘Love & Hip Hop Atlanta’ and K Michelle

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28:  Recording artist K.Michelle attends Radio Room Day 1 during the 2013 BET Awards at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on June 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 28: Recording artist K.Michelle attends Radio Room Day 1 during the 2013 BET Awards at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on June 28, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Friday, April 10, 2015

On Thursday, former Jive Records executive Mickey “Memphitz” Wright Jr. lost his 2012 defamation case against the owners of VH1 and producers of the network’s hit show “Love Hip Hop Atlanta” after his former girlfriend accused him of physical abuse and embezzlement on the program.

Wright’s former girlfriend, R & B singer Kimberly Michelle Pate (who was known on the show as K. Michelle),talked extensively on the TV show about how she had been abused and ripped off by an unnamed former record executive and was upset when other members of the show didn’t believe her. Although Wright was never named on the show, gossip sites mentioned his name numerous times. In social media and radio interviews, he denied the allegations, acknowledging it was him.

In the lawsuit filed in the United States Northern District of Georgia on Sept. 5, 2012, Wright asked for $15 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

To win the defamation case, Wright had to prove K Michelle’s allegations that he physically abused her were false, that he is more a private figure than a public figure (where the bar is far higher to prove defamation and “actual malice” has to be proven) and that the production companies and VH1 aired this information knowing it was false. He also had to prove the allegations were “injurious to his reputation and was published with a degree of fault at least amounting to negligence.”

The Fulton County judge Robert McBurney decided in favor of the defendants. In general, the allegations were true, Wright is deemed a public figure as a former TV host and husband of singer and reality star Toya Wright and the production company “exercised due diligence concerning Defendant Pate’s domestic violence claims,” according to final court judgment. “The record shows that they reasonably believed Defendant Pate during production of LHHA and that they still do today.”

Wright in depositions acknowledged he got into a physical altercation with K Michelle in a Memphis hotel altercation in 2009 and had spent money from Jive Records’ budget for jewelry, not to help her career. He had also allegedly sent a text message threatening to kill K. Michelle’s son. That content of the text was bleeped out on the show, negating its import in the case.

The summary judgment goes into detail about the argument between K Michelle and Wright where Wright admits he put a pillow and/or his hands over her mouth to try to shut her up. She reasonably thought he was trying to kill her. He later tried to backtrack from his initial acknowledgments, according to a court filing by the defendants seeking summary judgment.

Although K Michelle wasn’t a defendant in the original case, she was added later. The other defendants are Viacom, which owns VH1 and the production companies NFGTV and Monami Entertainment.

Details from my original story in 2012.

The judge was also displeased that it took several months for Wright to specify what was defamatory, noting that the delays “consumed the resources of the Court and Defendants and ultimately required an order of the Court to fix.”

K Michelle left “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” after the second season in 2013 and moved to New York, where had her own VH1 spinoff for one season. She also was able to re-ignite her music career, generating three hit singles in 2013 and 2014.


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