Inside Kesha’s Battle Against Dr. Luke: Allegations of Rape, Sketchy Deleted Photos, and More
The pop star claims her longtime producing partner raped her, controlled her, and threatened to destroy her career.
Kesha’s battle is far from over.
Last Friday, a judge dealt the “Tik Tok” pop star a major blow in her ongoing court case against Grammy nominated super-producer Dr. Luke, denying an injunction that would have freed Kesha from having to work for the man she says “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally” abused her for a decade.
As Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich issued a decision to keep Kesha legally bound to her six-album recording and songwriting contracts with Dr. Luke and Sony, the artist formerly known as Ke$ha sobbed in the courtroom.
Among the more disturbing accusations in her civil lawsuit against her former mentor is an allegation that he roofied her with what he called “sober pills” and then raped her, and that she woke up naked the next day in his bed “sore and sick, with no memory of how she got there.”
In a lawsuit filed in October 2014 under her legal name Kesha Rose Sebert, Kesha says that she feared for herself when, following the alleged rape, Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald) threatened to destroy her career and threatened her family’s physical safety if she told anyone. In court, however, the judge sided with Dr. Luke and decided that Kesha cannot escape her six-album contract with him and Sony.
The hashtag #FreeKesha spread with renewed urgency after the ruling, with some of pop’s most prominent female artists taking public stands for Kesha. Lady Gaga, Fiona Apple, Lorde, Ariana Grande, and Demi Lovato tweeted their support. Taylor Swift reportedly saw the pictures of Kesha weeping and pledged $250,000 to pay for her legal fees. Miley Cyrus, who worked with Dr. Luke on her hit song “Wrecking Ball,” reposted Apple’s message to her own Instagram followers.
More pointed was a tweet from Kelly Clarkson, whose 2004 platinum hit “Since U Been Gone” was not only co-written and co-produced by Dr. Luke—it made his career.
“Trying 2 not say anything since I can’t say anything nice about a person…so this is me not talking about Dr. Luke,” Clarkson tweeted, linking to Best Coast’s tweet calling the Kesha verdict “legit bullshit.”
But many other female pop superstars with close ties to Dr. Luke have kept conspicuously mum, including Pink, Britney Spears, and Avril Lavigne, most of whom are managed by Larry Rudolph, a business partner of Dr. Luke. Katy Perry hasn’t publicly chosen sides between her onetime pal Kesha and Dr. Luke, who produced her hits “I Kissed A Girl,” “Teenage Dream,” “Hot n Cold,” and “Wide Awake”—but she did sub-Insta a cryptic passage about friends turning into enemies the day of Kesha’s hearing.
Meanwhile, Dr. Luke quietly deleted a creeper photo of a sleeping Kesha he’d tweeted in 2009 with the caption, “Damn my artists work hard!!!!!!!!”—but not without escaping the notice of eagle-eyed fans.
He hasn’t yet deleted this tweet from 2010, which also has the Kesha faithful up in arms.
Erasing what could be considered incriminating evidence won’t do Dr. Luke any favors in the court of public opinion, as what promises to be a very lengthy trial marches on. The actual trial hasn’t even begun, while the discovery period alone is not scheduled to conclude until Jan. 6, 2017.
The trial itself won’t begin until later in 2017 which is when Kesha’s allegations against Dr. Luke will be heard on several counts including sexual assault and battery; sexual harassment; gender violence; civil harassment; violation of California’s unfair business laws; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and negligent retention and supervision.
It wasn’t until Monday, after #FreeKesha swelled with the high-profile power of Gaga, Miley, and T. Swift, that Dr. Luke broke his silence with a lengthy Twitter diatribe, stating, “I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her.”
He invoked the Duke lacrosse rape case and Rolling Stone’s retracted account of a campus rape at the University of Virginia.
“I understand why people without all the information are speaking out. I can appreciate their compassion,” he tweeted. “But lives can get ruined when there’s a rush to judgment before all the facts come out. Look what happened at UVA, Duke, etc.
“Or course any sane person is against rape and sexual assault but everybody who is commenting is doing so without knowledge or facts,” he continued. Kesha’s lawsuit, he tweeted, is “motivated by money.”
Dr. Luke also screencapped articles about a 2011 deposition Kesha made in a separate lawsuit in which she denied being drugged or raped by him and said under oath, “Dr. Luke never made sexual advances at me.”
“Imagine if you or somebody you loved was publicly accused of a rape you knew they didn’t do. Imagine that. I have 3 sisters, a daughter, and a son with my girlfriend, and a feminist mom who raised me right,” he tweeted. “Kesha and I made a lot of songs together and it was often good but there were creative differences at times. It’s sad that she would turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue.”
Kesha, 28, signed with Dr. Luke back in 2005 just after her 18th birthday. According to her lawsuit, he dazzled her with the promise of fame and fortune, luring her away from her home and family in Nashville to Los Angeles, where stardom awaited.
She signed as a recording artist to Dr. Luke’s Kasz Money, Inc. and Kemosabe Records labels and as a songwriter to his Prescription Songs. But, she claims, the dream she’d been sold quickly turned into a nightmare as Dr. Luke cultivated a one-sided mentorship of extreme professional and personal control. He was “preoccupied with the careers of other artists” and had no time to guide hers. She recorded her first big song at his behest, singing on the Flo Rida single “Right Round.” It became a smash hit, but she says she was never compensated for her work on the song.
Kesha spent six years making her debut album Animal, which Dr. Luke produced with Max Martin. It debuted at No. 1, scored her record-breaking numbers on lead single “Tik Tok,” and launched her social media-friendly brand of party girl dance-pop. But, Kesha alleges, even after the success of Animal, Dr. Luke “constantly insulted her songwriting, vocals, clothing, body, and appearance, as being far below his standards, as well as ‘Hollywood standards.’”
Kesha’s lawsuit paints a narrative of a cruel Svengali preying on a young female artist. “You are not that pretty, you are not that talented, you are just lucky to have me,” he told her, according to the complaint. That’s just one cringe-inducing example Kesha cited, but there are more: “There are a million other girls out there like you.” “You are nothing without me.” “Go finish the song so I can buy a yacht.”
Dr. Luke’s demeaning comments about Kesha’s appearance, including allegedly calling her a “fat fucking refrigerator,” contributed to her subsequently developing an eating disorder, she claims. He would also ply her with booze and drugs, she says, and allegedly engaged in “despicable” conduct around his young charge that included cheating on his wife and bragging to Kesha about “how he liked to take girls out on a first date, get them as drunk as possible, and ‘fuck them in the ass.’”
On the airwaves and onstage Kesha rap-warbled her way into popdom as an icon of carefree millennial insouciance, telling her fans to live “like we’re gonna die young.” Meanwhile, Dr. Luke allegedly maintained complete authority over her career as a performer and songwriter, refusing her requests to renegotiate her contract following the success of her first album.
“It was Kesha who chose to file a lawsuit falsely alleging abuse to gain advantage in contract negotiations, and now she must accept the consequences of her improper actions,” Dr. Luke’s attorney Christine Lepera said last year when Kesha’s legal team filed for the preliminary injunction to save her career from “irreparable harm” by freeing her to work with producers outside of her Dr. Luke contract.
Kesha’s lawyer Mark Geragos called that blatant victim-blaming and compared her plight to those of Bill Cosby’s accusers.
As the #FreeKesha clamor rose Monday, Dr. Luke’s attorney also hit back, calling Kesha’s lawsuit a case of extortion and promising to prove that the alleged incidents of abuse “never happened.” “The New York County Supreme Court on Friday found that Kesha is already ‘free’ to record and release music without working with Dr. Luke as a producer if she doesn’t want to,” she said in a statement. “Any claim that she isn’t ‘free’ is a myth.”
Kesha’s looking at a long road ahead in her case against Dr. Luke, but thanks to #FreeKesha she’s already getting offers from producers like Zedd and Jack Antonoff. “Hey @kesharose,” Antonoff tweeted Monday, “don’t know what the legal specifics are, but if you want to make something together & then leak it for everyone I’m around.”