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MANILA, Philippines – Another legal battle is looming for rapper Kanye West, now formally known as Ye, as he faces a lawsuit filed by paparazzi Nichol Lechmanik, who accused him of assault and inflicting emotional distress.
According to Variety, the lawsuit, filed with the Ventura County Superior Court, sought damages for the “mental and emotional pain” inflicted upon Lechmanik and described Kanye’s behavior as “willful, wanton, and malicious.”
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident captured on camera in January, where West allegedly grabbed Lechmanik’s phone and threw it onto the street. The confrontation took place outside a sports center in Ventura County, where the rapper watched his daughter North’s basketball game. His ex-wife and North’s mother, Kim Kardashian, also attended the game.
In a press conference on Thursday, June 1, Lechmanik explained that she had initially been taking photographs of Kardashian when she noticed West arguing with someone nearby. She decided to film the incident from her car, during which the artist confronted her.
“He reached into my car as if he were going to hit me, he grabbed my phone out of my hand and then angrily threw it into the street. He caused so much fear that I have not been the same since,” she said.
In a video clip of the incident, West was seen approaching Lechmanik’s vehicle and addressing her, saying: “You all ain’t gonna run up on me like that. If I say…stop with your cameras…stop with your cameras.”
Lechmanik continued filming during their confrontation, responding, “I know, but Kanye, you are a celebrity.”
He then reached into her car, snatched her phone, and threw it forcefully to the ground before leaving the scene.
Lechmanik said that the fear she experienced during the incident has had a lasting impact on her well-being and professional life.
“His actions have interfered with my ability to work. Although I am not a world-famous artist (like) Ye, I have just as much right to work as he does. He has no right to assault me, batter me, or cause me to be afraid to pursue my profession,” she said.
She stressed her professionalism and respect for celebrities throughout her 10-year career as a paparazzi photographer, emphasizing that her intention was never to harm anyone but rather to capture moments responsibly. She added that she had not experienced similar incidents with other celebrities.
Lechmanik’s attorney Gloria Allred echoed her client’s sentiments and expressed hope that the lawsuit would set a precedent for other paparazzi photographers who have similar experiences.
“Professional photographers who earn their living by being photographers have the right to do that without being interfered with by a celebrity. He can express his displeasure using words, but he does not have a right to grab someone else’s property and stop them from earning a living by filming what is going on at that moment,” Allred said.
Prior to this lawsuit, West also faced a legal battle against sportswear giant Adidas after parting ways with them following his anti-Semitic statements. Adidas initially filed a federal court case seeking to freeze $75 million held in accounts of Kanye’s Yeezy brand but dropped the case in May, saying they would seek private arbitration instead. – with reports from Jacob Maquiling/ Rappler.com