A man whose $1.5 million contribution was key to the successful start of Death Row Records and who received a pardon during the waning days of the Trump administration settled a lawsuit he brought against a woman in which he alleged she defamed him in a website referred to on a Hollywood billboard.
Attorney Marcus Jackson, on behalf of plaintiff Michael “Harry-O” Harris, filed court papers with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Leiter on Oct. 13 stating that his client’s case against Zevelyn K. Lee and one of her daughters, Skyy Shorty, was resolved. No terms were divulged. Jackson additionally filed a request for dismissal with Leiter on Tuesday.
The complaint filed April 30 also alleged 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.
After receiving a pardon from then-President Donald Trump, Harris was released from prison after serving over 30 years for attempted murder and cocaine trafficking. Harris’ release was one of 73 pardons and 70 sentence commutations issued by Trump during his finals days in office.
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 stated. 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 and they had a daughter, now 37, but the 22-year-old Shorty was born during a relationship Lee had with someone else, the suit stated.
“Sadly, Lee had mental/emotional issues that caused strife in the relationship,” the suit alleged. “In fact, she has been diagnosed as bipolar and has for years received medical treatment for her condition.”
Lee and Shorty had a billboard put up at Cahuenga and Barham boulevards with an image of Lee and Harris from the 1980s that included “incendiary statements about him” along with a website address, the suit stated. The photo on the billboard, as well as all photos on the website listed, were stolen from Harris and used without his permission the suit alleged.
“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 stated.
Among the false and defamatory statements are 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 stated.
“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 alleged 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.
Lee counter sued Harris on July 19 for unjust enrichment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, stating that Harris never admitted he had a daughter with her until he sued her and that he failed to pay child support from the time he went to prison in June 1988, when the girl was 3 years old, until she turned 18 in 2002.
“Harris’ abandonment of Lee and the child … to a life of destitution despite his knowledge that he was the child’s father and (despite) his immense wealth is extreme and outrageous conduct designed to intentionally cause Lee emotional distress, or constitutes actions taken in reckless disregard for the probability of causing Plaintiff emotional distress,” the countersuit stated.
Lee’s counter suit also was dismissed as part of the settlement.