Attorney Patrick Cousins is almost as flashy as his former client, Prince.
Sporting a fedora and standing next to a BMW with an “I SU4U” vanity plate, Cousins regaled his alumni magazine with stories about representing the artist. One time Cousins said he stopped a national retailer from selling Halloween costumes with Prince’s likeness.
“Our personalities mesh, and he trusts me,” he told the University of Florida’s law school magazine in 2007.
Since then he’d been banished by the artist and has been accused of trying to con people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by using his connection to Prince. But he’s returned after Prince’s death in April, representing a convict who claimed to be Prince’s son and then transferring ownership of a historic Minnesota church from Prince’s charity to a mysterious non-profit in his home state of Florida.
Cousins did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The end of Prince’s working relationship with the West Palm Beach lawyer appears to have coincided with a lawsuit Cousins’s company filed that put the men at odds in the courtroom.
In 2006, Cousins founded a company, 3121 Rep, named after the singer’s 3121 album, to handle the affairs of Prince and other clients.
The company signed a rental lease for a posh L.A. home for Prince in 2008, according to Los Angeles Superior Court records, but then sought to be removed from the lease in early 2009. Prince continued to live in the residence and other parts of his estate assumed the rental obligations, according to court records. Cousins filed a lawsuit in April 2009 against the rental company for breach of contract, arguing that, since 3121 had signed the lease, it was owed $300,000 for the first month’s rent and security deposit.
After the rental company counter-sued 3121, Prince, and Paisley Park Enterprises, the singer’s attorney contended that 3121 never paid those costs out of pocket and that the singer’s money was used to cover those costs.
“3121 Rep did not pay any money to any person or entity for rent or the security deposit,” one filing by Prince’s attorneys states. “It should not receive an unjust windfall.”
A judge ultimately ruled against 3121, stating Cousins’s company had no right to the funds.
“There was a sufficient showing by (Prince) that the money used to pay the security deposit came from funds that belonged to him,” an appeals court wrote in affirmation in 2012. “Substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that 3121 did not fund the deposit in the first place.”
The same year he lost his court battle to get $300,000, Cousins scooped up $75,000 for allegedly promising to get Prince to perform at an event after he was banished from Paisley Park.
Janet Wallace, an organizer of the International Hair Show for Bronner Bros., an African-American hair and skin products company, wanted to hire Prince to perform at an Atlanta event in 2012. According to a federal lawsuit filed against Cousins, she initially hired an agent named Richard De La Font to make the Prince connection, paying him $100,000 for his services.
Then Cousins came into the picture.
Wallace’s lawsuit alleges that Cousins told them “that if they wanted the concert to actually occur they would have to terminate their relationship with De La Font and deal with Defendant Cousins exclusively because only they could make the concert happen.”
Wallace severed ties with De La Font, who returned $95,000 of the payment and signed a deal with Cousins for $75,000 in June 2012, according to her lawsuit. Cousins came to Georgia and “pretended to be earnestly involved in helping to plan and arrange for the proposed concert,” the lawsuit said.
“Cousins went so far as to falsely pretend that he was actually talking to Prince on his cell phone and making arrangements,” the lawsuit alleges. “Or that, on another occasion, that he had just missed a call from Prince.”
The lawyer representing Wallace called this a “con artist scheme” in a court filing.
“He had a relationship with Prince that had dissolved,” said Antonio L. Thomas. “Prince and he were not on speaking terms, and he knew that, and Prince would not become involved in any endeavor that Patrick Cousins is associated with.”
Prince’s people contacted the plaintiffs and set the record straight, according to the lawsuit.
“The representative informed the Plaintiffs that Defendants were neither an attorney for nor representative of Prince,” the lawsuit states. “And that, additionally, the Artist would have nothing to do with the Defendants… and that the Defendants were prohibited from holding themselves out as a representative of the Artist.”
The plaintiffs said they asked Cousins for the $75,000 back, and he refused.
Cousins’s defense denied the allegations and has called the legal actions “frivolous” in court filings.
“Cousins exercised its best efforts to facilitate the performance of Prince,” one 2015 motion to dismiss from Cousins’s defense states. “Ultimately, Prince received and reviewed the contract.”
Cousins “conferred substantial benefits upon Bronner by providing contracts to and valuable advice regarding the artist known as Prince,” the motion states. “Bronner has gained access to Prince through those contacts and advice.”
Cousins’s law firm filed a lawsuit against Bronner Bros. in April 2014 in Palm Beach County, Florida, seeking more than $550,000 in damages.
That complaint states Cousins was no longer working for Prince when he was approached about lining up the concert in 2012.
“Bronner never intended for Cousins to keep the good faith money Cousins earned,” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead Bronner simply wanted Cousins’ contact to and advice relating to Prince.”
Palm Beach County records show Cousins Law Firm filed a voluntary dismissal of the claims against Bronner in March 2015.
Attorney William McLean defended Bronner in that lawsuit and said Cousins voluntarily dropped his case right before he was to go under oath.
“He dismissed his claims the day before he was scheduled to be deposed by me,” McLean said. “The topics on which I intended to depose Mr. Cousins included his alleged relationship with Prince and the status of Prince’s alleged agreement to perform… I never got that opportunity.”
A day after Prince’s death, Cousins shared more stories of repping Prince with local media, of being flown to Minnesota to watch the man and his band practice into the wee hours.
“I was the only person there watching, he said tell me what you think and it went on and on, I mean 2, 3 o’clock in the morning,” Cousins told a local TV station. “And I was like, OK, it’s good.”
A few weeks after the legend’s passing, Cousins represented Carlin Q. Williams, an incarcerated felon claiming to be Prince’s son. That claim to His Purple Majesty’s throne was later debunked by DNA testing.
In June, as lawyers continued to sort out Prince’s will-free estate in a probate case dubbed “unique and extraordinary” by one judge, Cousins signed away ownership of a historic Minneapolis church owned by Prince’s charity, Love 4 One Another, Hennepin County records show.
An Aug. 4 affidavit by an official of the company charged with disentangling Prince’s estate suggests they are not aware of such dealings in Prince’s name.
That affidavit still lists St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church among Prince’s current properties, even though Hennepin County records reveals it is now owned by Reboot Charity Inc., a Florida non-profit that deals in electronics recycling.
The transfer records show the consideration was for less than $500, and Cousins listed himself as “chief manager” of Prince’s charity, also known as L4OA.
He is not listed among the officers on L4OA’s filings in Minnesota or Delaware, except for a 2013 “Certificate of Revival” he signed in Delaware for the LLC.
Cousins is also not listed among the attorneys and law firms who sought payment for their work sorting out the estate during a Minnesota court hearing last month.
Kirk Johnson, a one-time drummer in Prince’s band who was listed as an officer for the charity in annual tax filings, said he had “no idea” about the history of Prince and St. John’s, valued at about $300,000 and sitting on a rough north side stretch, blocks from where Prince grew up.
“I don’t have those answers,” Johnson said when asked about Cousins.
Jeremy Smith, the head of Reboot Charity Inc., the Florida electronics recycling charity that now owns St. John’s, declined to elaborate.
“I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t talk about it,” Smith said. “It’s really none of your business.”
L4OA paid $495,000 for the church, an historic landmark, in April 2008, according to city records.
That offer was double what church officials had hoped to receive, a church trustee recalled.
It allowed the congregation to move into more spacious accommodations and leave the church’s extensive repair needs behind, he said.
The generous purchase was but one of a multitude of good deeds performed by Prince’s charity.
Annual tax filings show L4OA gave away more than $1.1 million in 2007 alone, for causes that included an autism center in St. Louis, a youth shelter in Iowa, a Cleveland community center, a Chicago cancer foundation and a fund for those affected by that summer’s highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
St. John’s started out as Sharei Zedeck synagogue when it was built in 1936 and became a black Baptist church when Jews left the north side in the 1960s, according to city records.
It sits just a few blocks from where police shot Jamar Clark in November, in one of the city’s poorer, violent neighborhoods.
The church stands vacant today, with one of the front steps’ handrails falling off.
Menorahs still adorn the church’s stained glass windows, and the quiet house of worship stands stoically among the poverty of its neighbors. Almost like it is waiting to help.
It could be put to good use, said Martine Smaller, head of the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council.
“It’s in our zone and we want to do something with it,” she said earlier this summer. “It’s been empty all this time.”