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Cardi B hits back at YouTuber’s appeal of $3.8 million defamation judgement

By | Published on Monday 31 October 2022

Cardi B

Cardi B has hit back at efforts by YouTuber Latasha Kebe to appeal the $3.8 million defamation judgement made against her in a US court earlier this year. Legal reps for the rapper say that Kebe is raising issues in her appeal that should have been dealt with earlier, and that the evidence they presented at the original court hearing was more than sufficient to support the jury’s verdict.

Kebe was sued by Cardi B – real name Belcalis Almanzar – over various claims that were made about the rapper in her YouTube videos. That included, legal papers said, that Almanzar “was a prostitute … was a user of cocaine … had and still has herpes … had and still has HPV … engaged in a debasing act with a beer bottle and … committed infidelity”.

Almanzar denied all the allegations that Kebe had made, and told the court that false rumours spread by the YouTuber had had a negative impact on her mental health, resulting in the rapper becoming depressed and suicidal. Kebe, meanwhile, basically admitted in court that she didn’t fact-check any of the allegations made about Almanzar on her YouTube channel, even when the rapper was actively denying those claims.

A jury found Kebe liable for defamation back in January, awarding the rapper nearly $4 million in damages. Kebe then began appeal proceedings in the Eleventh Circuit appeals court, arguing that it was never proven in court that she acted with actual malice when making her videos about Almanzar and that the exclusion of evidence about the rapper’s character in court resulted in a “very lopsided” hearing.

Almanzar’s team responded to Kebe’s appeal last week. In the new legal filing, her lawyers again outline the various defamatory statements made in videos published by the YouTuber and her company.

And, they claim, while Kebe pretended to her audience that she was a credible journalist who fact-checked the allegations she and her guests made, in fact she simply published unverified gossip that she knew would drive traffic to her YouTube channel and therefore generate ad revenue.

Kebe and her company, they write, “seek to draw people to their [social media] accounts where they make money from advertising revenue and paid subscriptions. In serving this financially motivated purpose, they publish stories to build the audience for their content despite knowing that certain stories are false”.

“Even in those instances when they do not have actual knowledge that a story is false”, Almanzar’s lawyers add, “they still assume that every story could be false given the types of rumours that they publish on their platform”.

“In order to add credibility to the either known-false or assumed-false gossip that they spread”, the legal filing continues, “they purposely mislead their audience by claiming that they report ‘real news’. They also falsely boast that ‘98%’ of the stories they publish are facts for which they have corroborating documents. In other words, they portray to the public that they are conducting legitimate journalism when they admittedly are not”.

In terms of the specifics of Kebe’s appeal, Almanzar’s lawyers argue that the YouTuber is mainly raising issues now that should have been raised earlier, either during or shortly after January’s hearing in the lower district court.

“The Kebe parties have waived each of the objections raised in their appeal brief because they did not raise them at the appropriate time, or at all, before the district court”, the lawyers write. “They did not file a post-verdict motion to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. They did not object to the verdict form at any time”.

“They did not seek to address any alleged inconsistency in the jury’s verdict before the jury was discharged”, they continue. “And they did not make the arguments they make now regarding the alleged relevancy of the evidence that the district court excluded. It is too late to raise these objections for the first time in this appeal”.

And, of course, the Almanzar side are adamant that the jury got it right back in January. “The jury’s verdict is entitled to considerable deference”, the lawyers note.

“This court must disregard Kebe’s testimony, which forms the entire basis of their defence to this action, because the jury was not required to believe any of it. Conversely, the unimpeached testimony and uncontradicted documentary evidence introduced by Almanzar must be credited and was more than sufficient to support the jury’s findings”.

And as for Kebe’s claim that the lower court judge was wrong to exclude some evidence at the original hearing, they state: “The district court did not abuse its discretion to exclude the evidence because the documents were not relevant for the purposes advanced by the Kebe parties and, in any event, any probative value of these documents was substantially outweighed by other factors”.

With all that in mind, they conclude, “the jury’s verdict and the resulting judgment should be affirmed”.