The woman suing Nicki Minaj and the rapper’s husband, Kenneth Petty, spoke out against the couple on talk show “The Real” this week, accusing the pair of launching an intimidation campaign against her and threatening her safety.
Petty was convicted in 1995 of sexually assaulting Jennifer Hough, who appeared Wednesday in her first televised interview about the case and tearfully detailed the 1994 assault and the recent defamation and witness intimidation lawsuit she filed against the couple. She said she’s been living “in fear for the last year” after allegedly being threatened by their associates.
The $15 million lawsuit was filed in August in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. It alleges that for months in 2020, Minaj (real name Onika Tanya Maraj), Petty and their associates pressured Hough to recant her 1994 allegations against Petty.
The suit cited witness intimidation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, harassment, assault, battery, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Hough told hosts of “The Real” that she was offered up to $20,000 to take back her allegations, claimed that she spoke directly to Minaj in March 2020 and ultimately refused her and her associates’ offers to backpedal on her story.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hough’s attorney, Tyrone A. Blackburn, claimed that the offers deteriorated into threats against Hough’s safety.
“What they did to me and my family wasn’t OK,” Hough said on the syndicated talk show while seated next to Blackburn. “It wasn’t right and it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter what your status is. You can’t intimidate people to make things go better for you. And that’s what they did.”
Hough also detailed the defamation allegations in a March interview with the Daily Beast, which was among the first publications to give Petty’s victim a platform.
Petty’s lawyer, Michael A. Goldstein, declined to comment Thursday, and a representative for Minaj did not respond to a request for comment. Their legal teams have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
The “Bang Bang” rapper first dated Petty when she was 16 and living in Queens, New York. The couple wed in 2019 after reportedly being back together for about a year. They welcomed their first child, a son, in 2020. When Hough learned that Minaj, 38, and Petty, 43, started dating, she said she “was so afraid of being found out.”
“I was so afraid of being known as the person he violated. And I didn’t want that. It’s Nicki Minaj, you know, I didn’t want that to reflect on my children,” she said on “The Real.”
Additionally, when Petty’s criminal history came to light on social media, Minaj addressed criticism online by saying that Petty was only 15 at the time and claimed that he and Hough were in a relationship. Hough, 43, told “The Real” hosts that they were not.
“It was like reliving it again. Because it was a lie. It wasn’t true,” Hough said of Minaj’s comments. “We both were 16. We were never in a relationship. It just felt — woman to woman — that was wrong of her, because I don’t know you and you don’t know me, to know that that statement you put out to the world ... [and her followers] they all believed it. It hurt coming from another woman.”
Hough alleged that Petty, whom she knew from their neighborhood, sexually assaulted her before school in September 1994 after encountering her at a bus stop, putting an object in her back and forcing her into a house nearby. She was 16 at the time.
Petty, who initially denied the charges, was subsequently charged with first-degree rape for allegedly sexually assaulting Hough at knifepoint at his residence. He took a plea deal and was convicted of the lesser charge of attempted first-degree rape in April 1995, according to the New York State’s Sex Offender registry. He went to prison for about four-and-a-half years in the late 1990s and served some time for a separate manslaughter case from 2006 to 2013.
Petty’s case has been back in the news in recent weeks after Hough filed her lawsuit and because he pleaded guilty earlier this month for failing to register as a sex offender after he moved to California. Many critics of Minaj also questioned the timing of the rapper’s viral remarks about vaccinations last week and wondered if they were a distraction from the lawsuit she and Petty are facing.
After Hough’s interview on “The Real,” Twitter users also went off on Minaj for apparently changing the Hough narrative. They resurfaced an audio clip from her “Queen Radio” show in which she implied that Petty’s victim was white. (Hough is biracial. Her father is Black, her mother white.)
Blackburn told the L.A. Times both he and Hough have been targeted by Minaj’s highly active fan base on social media, where she has 158 million followers on Instagram alone. Hough, he said, has been receiving angry direct messages, and he’s been spammed with false reviews on his law firm’s page. He said that his client “literally just wanted people to leave her alone.”
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