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Jay-Z’s private investigator monitors supposedly COVID concerned witness as perfume dispute gets to court

By | Published on Monday 18 October 2021


Jay-Z’s legal battle with perfume company Parlux is due to get underway in the New York courts later today. However, the excitement kicked off on Friday when the rapper’s lawyers announced that they’d hired a private investigator to assess whether a key witness for the other side was being honest when he claimed COVID concerns meant he couldn’t testify in person.

The private investigator’s private investigations proved said witness – a former Parlux President – was not being honest, legal papers filed on Friday night declare.

Fragrance firm Parlux sued Jay-Z – real name Shawn Carter – back in 2016, accusing the rapper of failing to meet his commitments to plug Gold Jay-Z, a perfume that Parlux and Carter launched together. The case has been slowly progressing through the courts ever since, with various legal squabbles along the way relating to deleted emails, access to Carter’s work diary, and whether a deposition involving the rapper should be filmed.

As the full-on court hearing in the case got nearer, another side debate took place as to whether Jay-Z and other witnesses due to testify should attend in person, or whether they could take part in the proceedings via video call, as has become much more common during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The judge overseeing the case recently let it be known that he was very much of the opinion that key witnesses should testify in person. And that includes Donald J Loftus, who was President of Parlux until 2018. However, Loftus has sought permission to testify remotely based on COVID-related medical concerns.

Carter’s legal papers on Friday state: “As the court is aware, Donald J Loftus and his counsel (who also act as plaintiffs’ counsel here) submitted two doctor’s letters from Mr Loftus’ gastroenterologist asking the court to exercise its discretion under NY judiciary law to permit Mr Loftus to testify remotely. The letters claimed, among other things, that Mr Loftus was so fearful of COVID-19 that he had not been indoors (other than his house) since the beginning of the pandemic”.

But that’s just not true, Carter’s lawyers argue, and they’ve got a private investigator’s report to prove it. “Just last week, Mr Loftus was caught in public without a mask, in stores, on buses, dining inside restaurants, and at a crowded parade”, they allege, citing the report provided by retired police officer Peter Devine.

“Despite Mr Loftus and plaintiffs’ counsel’s misrepresentations otherwise, the pandemic has not proven exceptional for Mr Loftus, who is living his life as if it is 2019”, the legal filing continues. “COVID-19 has not stopped Mr Loftus from participating in any activities similar to (or more risky than) attending an in-person trial around other, socially-distanced, masked individuals”.

“Indeed”, it goes on, “were the pandemic an ‘exceptional’ risk to Mr Loftus’ health, certainly Mr Loftus would not have eaten inside at multiple crowded restaurants without a mask on, rode an MTA bus, visited the dry cleaners, shopped in a grocery store, and attended a parade just last week, as the evidence filed recently demonstrated”.

Although legal reps for Parlux and Loftus told Law360 that “we believe that in several material respects, the investigator’s statements are incorrect, misleading and inaccurate”, Carter’s legal team want the judge to force the former Parlux chief to testify in person.

Carter’s filing states: “Plaintiffs are calling Mr Loftus to provide evidence on their behalf and Mr Loftus is appearing voluntarily. They should not be permitted the accommodation of remote testimony after trying to mislead the court based on letters that contain admittedly false information”.

“If Mr Loftus is going to provide such voluntary, affirmative testimony, he should do it in court with everyone else. He should not be shielded from an effective, in-person cross-examination, nor should defendants be deprived of their right to confront Mr Loftus in court”.

So that’s a fun start to the court proceedings. Jury selection is due to start this morning New York time.