2012 flashback: Memphitz sues K Michelle for defamation

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed September 11, 2012

Former Jive Records executive Mickey "Memphitz" Wright Jr. has sued the owners of VH1 and producers of the network's hit show "Love Hip Hop Atlanta" for defamation after his former girlfriend accused him of physical abuse and embezzlement on the program, which just concluded its first season Sept. 3 to big ratings.

"Our position is he didn't do anything to break any laws," said Memphitz's attorney Alcide Honore in an interview today. "She presented a patently false framework of facts and descriptions about the nature of their relationship and cast an image of my client that is defamatory in nature."

UPDATE: A judge on April 9, 2015 decided there was no defamation, siding with "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" producers and K Michelle.

Wright, in the lawsuit filed in the United States Northern District of Georgia on Sept. 5, 2012, asks for $15 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

Wright's former girlfriend, RB singer, Kimberly Michelle Pate (who is known on the show as K. Michelle), didn't have much of a story line the first season but talked quite a bit about how she had been abused by an unnamed former record executive and was upset when other members of the show didn't believe her.

Honore said although Wright’s name was never uttered on the show, it was readily obvious to anybody in the industry who K. Michelle was talking about. His name was referenced frequently on gossip and news sites online as well.

Curiously, K. Michelle is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Honore said it was a “strategic decision” to omit her from the filing, though he didn’t specify why. “As is often the case in lawsuits, things are subject to change,” Honore said. “There’s no guarantee she won’t be named a defendant in the future if circumstances change.”

Wright, a music executive for his own company Do Work Enterprises, describes himself in the lawsuit as “maintaining his humble roots and southern drawl despite his success, which ultimately lead others in the industry to call him ‘Memphitz,’ named after the city of Memphis, Tenn., where he was born and raised.”

Wright signed K. Michelle in 2008 and the pair was involved romantically in 2009, according to the lawsuit.

During the debut episode of “Love Hip Hop: Atlanta” in June, K. Michelle said after six months of dating, “one day he flipped and beat my ***. All I can remember is just screaming and saying, ‘It’s me. Like, it’s me. I love you. It’s me, K. It’s me.’ He wasn’t there. People behind the scenes, from the record label to everywhere, they knew the truth… He bought chains, rings, everything out of my recording budget. It was over $2 million with nothing to show for it. No album, no music, no anything.”

The lawsuit claims she “knowingly made false statements with intent to cause harm to Mr. Wright and increase ratings.” The defendants “intentionally aired K. Michelle’s false statements.” She continued to make similar statements the rest of the series, the lawsuit said.

K. Michelle, in an interview with me before the show launched in June, didn’t describe her relationship with Memphitz in any detail but did say she felt trapped while with the record label.

“For two years, no one would listen,” she said. “I was silenced because I was on the label.” (She was dropped when Jive Records folded in 2011.)

To TMZ, K. Michelle gave this response:

I am very grateful to VH1 and Monami Ent. for the opportunity to tell my story, and touch lives worldwide … I look forward to having my day in court and finally having the truth of my story confirmed in a court of law.

Hopefully others will not have to go through this and then have their stories challenged to this degree because people now want to try to salvage whatever reputation they may have had."

TMZ also said K. Michelle has retained New York entertainment attorney Matt Middleton as counsel. (I left a phone message with him.)

A VH1 spokeswoman declined to comment. I also left messages with the production companies Monami Entertainment and NFGTV, Inc.

Wright is currently married to Toya Carter Wright, who was previously married to hip-hop singer Lil Wayne and starred herself in a couple of former BET reality shows, "Tiny Toya" and "Toya: A Family Affair."

In the lawsuit, Wright is asking for loss of earnings since the show debuted June 18 given the “injury to his reputation caused by Defendants” and “emotional stress and diminution of his ability to earn a higher income in the future as a consequence of the impairment to his reputation.”

He also asked for damages related to negligence and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. And he wants a trial by jury.