A man whose $1.5 million contribution was key to the successful start of Death Row Records is suing a former woman with whom he had a relationship, alleging she defamed him in a website that is advertised on a Hollywood billboard and falsely accuses him of being abusive toward her.
Michael “Harry-O” Harris’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Zevelyn K. Lee also alleges intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional and/or negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and violation of the state’s Unfair Competition Law.
Harris seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Friday. Lee could not be immediately reached.
Harris gave Suge Knight $1.5 million in 1992 to help him start the fledgling Death Row Records, which became one of the most storied in music history with the release of records by such artists as Dr. Dre, the late Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. Harris’ wife, Lydia Harris, later won $107 million default judgment against the label in 2005.
Harris is involved in several multimillion-dollar film projects and recently created a nonprofit organization that supports community organizations dedicated to social justice and prison reform, the suit states. He also has established a popular entertainment and media company that connects philanthropic donations to national and international causes, according to the suit.
Harris had a brief romantic relationship with Lee, with whom he has an adult daughter, the suit states.
“Sadly, Lee had mental/emotional issues that caused strife in the relationship,” the suit alleges. “In fact, she has been diagnosed as bipolar and has for years received medical treatment for her condition”
Harris recently found out that Lee put up a billboard at Cahuenga and Barham Boulevards that features an image of the two of them from the 1980s that includes “incendiary statements about him” along with a website address, the suit states.
The photo on the billboard, as well as all photos on the website listed, were stolen from Harris and used without his permissionm the suit alleges.
“Visitors to the website listed on the billboard are confronted with a series of appalling, insulting, false, defamatory and plainly disgusting accusations against Harris,” the suit states.
The defamatory statements include that Harris physically abused Lee, that he engaged in similar behavior with other Black women and that he and his brother attended dances at Lee’s high school so they could “pursue the high school girls there,” the suit states
Lee posted two similar websites, one in 2010 and another earlier this year, the suit states.
“Clearly Lee has made a habit of trying to profit from smearing the hard-earned reputation of Harris and his business colleagues,” according to the suit, which also alleges Lee has herself filed numerous small claims lawsuits “in a desperate attempt” to recover money.
“Lee is no stranger to making unfounded and frivolous efforts to try to recover money from innocent victims,” the suit alleges.
Most of the cases were dismissed because she failed to follow through with them, the suit states.