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YouTuber who defamed Cardi B files papers calling for $4 million judgement to be reversed

By | Published on Wednesday 31 August 2022

Cardi B

The YouTuber who was found liable for defamation in relation to various videos she posted about Cardi B has asked the Eleventh Circuit appeals court in the US to reverse that judgement and order a new trial. Among other things she argues that it was never proven she acted with actual malice when making her videos about Cardi B and that the exclusion of evidence about the rapper’s character in court resulted in a “very lopsided” hearing.

Latasha 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 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”.

When the dispute got to court in January, Kebe basically admitted 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 allegations, and even when they were being made by a guest that she suspected was lying. She also insisted that most of the allegations that featured in her videos were simply “opinions”, even though that’s not how they were usually framed in the videos themselves.

Almanzar and her legal team, meanwhile, discussed the impact that the various allegations had on the rapper’s mental health – a defamation claim needing to show damage as well as untruths. The rapper herself discussed how the widespread public speculation sparked by the rumours that were spread by Kebe made her depressed and suicidal.

The jury considering the case quickly sided with Almanzar and then awarded her $4 million in damages. Following the ruling, Kebe returned to her YouTube channel to deliver a statement in which she vowed to fight that judgement, while constructing and developing her “the Hollywood machine is attacking my First Amendment rights” narrative.

That statement was long and rambling. Her new filing with the Eleventh Circuit is also long, but rambles less, generally focused on the legal arguments for why the January court hearing wasn’t fair and didn’t reach the right conclusion.

In particular, it argues, the lower court was wrong to exclude discussion of Almanzar’s general “character” during the trial, because, “under Georgia law, when there is an assertion of damage to reputation – like in this case – plaintiff’s character is substantively at issue”.

Therefore, “the district court’s erroneous exclusion of plaintiff’s character evidence resulted in a very lopsided presentation of evidence to the jury. Because the jury did not get to learn the type of conduct plaintiff engages in or who the plaintiff truly is as a person, the jury returned a general verdict for the plaintiff”.

As for the kinds of things Kebe reckons the jury should have heard about, that includes “evidence of plaintiff’s admissions regarding plaintiff’s gang membership; plaintiff’s threats to other bloggers, especially when plaintiff doesn’t like how she’s being portrayed; plaintiff’s hateful comments to strangers on social media; and plaintiff’s Instagram Live videos posted around the time of plaintiff’s alleged ‘mental freaking crisis'”.

Apart from that kind of thing likely making the jury less sympathetic towards Almanzar in general, it would probably have also aided Kebe in her bid to prove that she didn’t act with malice when making the various claims about the rapper in her videos. And whether or not Kebe acted with malice is super relevant to defamation cases like this in the US.

As the new court filing notes, “to prevail in a defamation action, as a public figure, plaintiff must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the defendants acted with actual malice”.

And, the YouTuber argues, she believed that the various statements she made about Almanzar were in fact true, an assumption which might have seemed more reasonable to the jury had they seen the character evidence. And if she reasonably assumed the statements were true, that could back up her claim that the publishing of said statements was not malicious.

“Plaintiff’s claims were based on six statements, which she alleged were defamatory”, the legal filing goes on. “However, plaintiff failed to prove, with clear and convincing evidence, that the defendants published any of those six statements with actual malice”.

“The gist of plaintiff’s evidence consisted of her testimony that those six statements were not true”, it continues. “Meanwhile, the defendants presented a plethora of evidence, showing the origin of each one of the six statements and proving the defendants did not act with actual malice”.

The new filing then goes through each of the six statements and explains why it was reasonable for Kebe to assume they were in some way truthful, often citing statements made Almanzar herself.

“Because the evidence showed the defendants did not act with a reckless disregard for the truth, plaintiff should not have recovered damages for defamation”, the filing concludes, before requesting “the jury verdict must be reversed in its entirety and this case must be remanded for a new trial, with specific instructions that the defendants cannot be prohibited from presenting evidence of plaintiff’s character and specific instances of plaintiff’s conduct, in accordance with Georgia law”.

We now await Almanzar’s response.