The bow-tied Twitter laureate who shares messages about Mass, dogs, birthdays, college football and the Oxford comma seems an unlikely guide to explain who’s who in Atlanta’s rap music world.
But Georgia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Stephen Dillard rose to the occasion with an opinion tossing a lawsuit against a rapper.
Fond of footnotes, Dillard used one to introduce the defendant.
“Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.—known professionally as ‘T.I.’ or ‘Tip’—is an American rapper and actor, and he has been described as ‘one of the artists who popularized the hip hop subgenre trap music, along with Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane,’” Dillard said, citing Wikipedia.org.
“What started off as a jam-packed week of parties, concerts, and watching renowned rappers mixing new music tracks in the waning days of summer abruptly ended with Norris Gresham being dragged down a flight of 30 stairs and viciously pistol whipped in front of a crowd of onlookers,” Dillard began.
“Gresham blacked out shortly after the attack began, eventually coming to in a nearby parking lot. He then called the police,” Dillard continued. “Gresham suffered significant physical injuries during the attack, and later filed suit against numerous parties.”
Most of those parties sued were companies owned by Harris.
Judges Sara Doyle and Amanda Mercier concurred with Dillard in an opinion released March 5. The panel upheld Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall in dismissing the case against the Harris companies. A default judgment has been entered against the attacker, who had no assets, according to an attorney for Harris.
Gresham’s attorney Ted Lackland of Lackland & Associates in Marietta said Friday, “We are consulting with our client to determine whether we will file for certiorari to the Supreme Court.”
Harris attorney Albert Chapar Jr. of the Chapar Firm said, “Tip and I were very pleased.”
Chapar said Gresham “made many fantastic allegations, including some that Tip actually ordered the assault.”
“These may have raised the temperature of the case, but those kinds of allegations proved to be utterly insupportable,” Chapar said. “Tip was not present and knew nothing about the assault as it was happening.”
Chapar said the case then narrowed to Gresham seeking recovery “primarily on a premises liability theory.”
“At first glance, the occurrence of an injury upon the property of another may tempt a party to invoke premises liability law,” Chapar said. “However, Judge Schwall below recognized that the facts of this case could not support recovery on a premises liability theory because the injuries as alleged … were the consequence of a personal dispute” between the victim and the attacker.
“As Chief Judge Dillard nicely explains, when a person is injured by another due to the existence of a personal dispute, that dispute is the cause of the injury,” Chapar said. “That the attacker might have chosen real property upon which a studio partially owned by Tip to carry out the attack was a choice by none but the assailant. The injuries were not the responsibility of Tip or any of my other clients.”
Before explaining the facts of the case, Dillard had to introduce the players.
“As a preliminary matter, it is helpful to identify some of the individuals and corporate entities that are either parties to this appeal or otherwise involved in the events leading up to the assault,” Dillard said. He went on to introduce “corporate-entity defendants.” Harris and Jason Geter co-own both Grand Hustle, a record label, and King of da South, Inc., a company that “facilitates certain areas” of their business.
Dillard went on to say that Harris and Geter also co-own Echo Studios, a recording studio “where the relevant events occurred.” Dillard said the man who attacked Gresham had an “exclusive recording artist agreement” with Grand Hustle.
It happened in September 2010. Gresham went to Echo Studios for the premier of a movie called “Takers,” “a Labor Day cookout, and a showcase of Grand Hustle recording artists,” Dillard said. “Later that evening, Gresham, along with others, went to a nightclub.” Gresham was working as an assistant to another Grand Hustle recording artist, Nathaniel Josey, also known as “Mac Boney.”
Dillard said Gresham’s job was to make sure that Josey did not “get in any confrontations with … patrons in the nightclub.” Gresham was also tasked with distributing CDs, keeping the group safe and making sure they did not “get in any trouble.”
“Eventually, everyone returned to the studio for an after party, where Gresham continued working as Josey’s assistant.” Dillard said. “While at the nightclub, Josey wore a gold-encrusted chain that belonged to Michael Render a/k/a ‘Killer Mike,’ another recording artist.”
“But upon his return to the studio, after ‘working on the next mix [they] were about to release,’ Josey noticed the Render’s chain was missing and there was then ‘chaos in the building’,” Dillard said.
“According to Gresham, Render stopped by the studio and ‘threatened to kill everybody in the building if his chain was not returned to him.’ And after Render left the studio, the building was ‘on lockdown’ and the only way to leave was to exit through Harris’s office,” Dillard said.
The story continued. The bottom line was that the necklace was found in the ceiling of a bedroom where Gresham had seen another recording artist storing a gun. Gresham put two and two together, figuring the same artist took the gold chain. Accusations ensued from the others. The attack followed in retaliation.
Ultimately, Dillard concluded the Harris companies couldn’t be held liable. But T.I.’s lawyer admitted he found Dillard’s opinion gratifying for another reason, too.
“As a lawyer you hope that busy judges can find time to get interested in your cases,” Chapar said. “It doesn’t always work out that way.”
He added, “This one certainly caught his interest.”
The case is Gresham v. Harris, No. A18A1790.