Weeks before their case was set to go to trial, Kesha and Dr. Luke (née Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald) announced in a joint statement that they’ve instead agreed to a settlement—nearly a decade after the singer first sued the producer for sexual assault, prompting Gottwald to countersue Kesha for defamation.
“Only God knows what happened that night. As I have always said, I cannot recount everything that happened. I am looking forward to closing the door on this chapter of my life and beginning a new one,” Kesha wrote in her statement on the settlement. “I wish nothing but peace to all parties involved.”
In Gottwald’s statement, the producer maintained that he didn’t sexually abuse Kesha: “While I appreciate Kesha again acknowledging that she cannot recount what happened that night in 2005, I never drugged or assaulted her and would never do that to anyone,” he wrote. “For the sake of my family, I have vigorously fought to clear my name for nearly 10 years. It is time for me to put this difficult matter behind me and move on with my life. I wish Kesha well.”
Gottwald’s attorney claimed in her own statement that Kesha’s statement “clears Luke’s name as it proves she had no ground to accuse him of any wrongdoing”—which it does not. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the terms of Kesha and Gottwald’s settlement aren’t public at this time.
The settlement between the two comes after New York’s Court of Appeals determined earlier this month that Gottwald is, in fact, a public figure and is thus required to prove in his defamation suit that Kesha acted with “actual malice” in alleging that he sexually assaulted her. The decision reversed a previous ruling from a mid-level New York appeals court in 2021 that held that Gottwald is a private citizen, substantially lowering the threshold for proving defamation from the “malice” standard to simple “negligence.”
The reversal, premised around Gottwald’s own boastful statements about his success in the music industry, seemed to bode well for Kesha. But one can certainly understand, given the context of recent, much-publicized celebrity trials centered around gender-based violence, why Kesha might wish to avoid the spectacle and violent misogyny that tend to go hand-in-hand with legal disputes of this nature.
Just last year, the civil rights groups Legal Momentum, Equal Rights Advocates, and the National Women’s Law Center filed a brief in New York State Supreme Court characterizing Gottwald’s countersuit as sustained sexual harassment targeting the singer. “When the abusers have money to hire lawyers, that retaliation often comes in the form of turning the law that is supposed to protect survivors into the instrument to torment and threaten,” the brief states.
The groups filed the brief in support of Kesha at roughly the same time that Johnny Depp’s defamation suit against Amber Heard went to trial. The trial saw Depp’s legal team use a range of tactics decried by domestic violence victim advocates to smear and villainize Heard. Experts expressed concern that the highly visible nature of the Depp-Heard trial and its outcome would chill victims’ speech, and further encourage defamation suits as a tactic by men accused of abuse to silence those who accuse them.
While Kesha’s statement by no means recants her allegations against the producer, the singer made it clear that she’s stepping back from the decade-long legal war. The conflict between the two has come with significant ramifications for Kesha who, at one point in February 2020, was ordered to pay Gottwald almost $400,000 in royalties for breaking her contract with him after the alleged assault. Whatever the settlement between Kesha and Gottwald entails, I hope this development can bring the singer some measure of peace after all these years.