Eric (Eazy E) Wright, one of the founders of the rap group N.W.A and the head of Ruthless Records, has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that charges various incidents of racketeering, extortion and money laundering in connection with a contractual dispute between Ruthless and Sony Music.
The suit also claims violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Named as defendants in the suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, were Sony Music Entertainment; Death Row Records (owned by Andre Young, aka “Dr. Dre” of N.W.A, Dick Griffey, and Marion “Suge” Knight); Solar Records (operated as a joint venture between Sony, Dick Griffey and Virgil Roberts); Sony executives Tommy Mottola, Hank Caldwell, David Glew and Craig Sussman; recording artist Tracy Curry, aka The D.O.C.; and Michelle Toussant, aka recording artist Michel le.
The suit alleges Sony interfered with contractual arrangements made by Ruthless with Toussant and Curry as artists and Young as a producer by issuing recordings on Young’s Death Row Records while the defendants were under contract to Ruthless.
In the suit’s most shocking allegation, Wright claims he was forced under duress to sign releases for the artists and Young in the offices of Solar when he was confronted by Knight and several others wielding baseball bats.
“Ruthless owns the copyright to the master recordings,” says Wright’s attorney, Michael Bourbeau. “(The defendants) were well aware of it.” Bourbeau called the suit “a classic RICO case,” alleging that Sony’s deposit of the proceeds from the Death Row recordings was “money laundering.”
Sony responded to the suit yesterday with a statement claiming “launching a lawsuit with a publicity campaign is a clear indication that the plaintiffs are pursuing an agenda other than the legal adjudication of their claim. As far as we are concerned, we look forward to a full and fair review of the facts.” The statement concluded: “We are confident that Sony Music executives acted at all times lawfully, ethically, and with sound business judgment.”