Suge Knight Seeks Revenge On Death Row Co-Founder
In 2002, Harris' wife, Lydia Harris, filed a lawsuit against Knight claiming that she co-founded Death Row, but was forced out of the venture when Knight realized the label's profitable potential.
In March 2005, a California Judge ordered Knight to pay Lydia Harris $107 million, because he and his legal team had failed to respond to legal inquiries and provide certain information.
Knight's suit, which was filed Thursday (February 16) in a Los Angeles Federal Court, claims that Lydia was a "straw plaintiff," and that Michael and attorneys David Casselman and Steve Goldberg were the masterminds behind the case.
The suit also claims that Michael Harris was "successful in his scheme to extort various amounts of money from various entertainment entities."
Michael Harris, who is serving a 28-year sentence for narcotics distribution and attempted murder, revealed in 1997, that he gave Knight $1.5 million in drug money to start Death Row. Harris claimed that he was promised half of the label's profit in return and until this day, he has never received any profits from the deal.
Knight has long denied Michael's claims and in a letter he wrote to the Los Angeles Times in 1997, Knight described him as a liar who "makes things up to try to get out of jail."
Shortly after Lydia was awarded with $107 million, Goldberg, Michael's lawyer, revealed that Lydia was trying to cut off her husband and had been negotiating to settle with Knight. Michael immediately filed for divorce. Separating from Lydia and making Knight a party in the divorce prevented the mogul from "disposing or transferring his assets away."
Lydia was not named as a defendant in Knight's suit, but it claims that at some point in the settlement negotiations, she discovered she was a "pawn in the extortion scheme."
On Friday (February 17), Dermont Givens, Knight's Attorney, stated that Lydia Harris had agreed to settle several months later for $1 million and certain rights to use Death Row's music.
Casselman, who represented Lydia Harris in her suit against Knight but was eventually fired, says Knight's latest move is to avoid the $107 million judgment.
He also denied that Lydia Harris was merely posing as the plaintiff in the case and called Knight's suit "totally without basis."
He has also sued both Lydia and Knight, alleging they were involved in a secret settlement to try and subvert the $107 million judgment, under which Knight is to pay Lydia $30 million and not have to pay her attorneys.
Goldberg also believed that Knight was trying to avoid the judgment and called his lawsuit "a last-ditch" gasp to avoid paying. According to him, Knight is expected to appear at a February 28 hearing in the previous case to give a rundown of his assets.
Aside from Michael Harris, the following names listed as defendants on Knight's suit: Steven Goldberg; Alvin Brown, who the suit states Lydia hired after firing Cassleman; Cassleman's law firm, Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Pearson LLP; Goldberg's law firm, Russ August & Kabat; Lifestyle Records Inc.; New Media Corp.; and a number of unnamed defendants.