A Delaware federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a defamation suit by a rapper formerly affiliated with the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, who claimed media outlets had falsely reported that he attempted a grisly act of self-mutilation and attempted suicide.
Marques Andre Johnson, known by the stage name Andre Roxx, had sued a contingent of media companies in March 2016, nearly two years after outlets incorrectly reported that he severed his penis and jumped out of a window while attending a party in California.
In fact, Johnson, who had been associated with Wu-Tang’s Killa Beez outfit, was serving a 16-month prison sentence in a Pennsylvania prison at the time. It turned out that another Wu-Tang affiliated rapper named Andre Johnson—known as Christ Bearer—had committed the gruesome act.
In his complaint, Johnson said the story “spread like wildfire” across the internet and broadcast news, and exposed him to attacks and threats from inmates. Since released, Johnson said he has been harassed online and ostracized by friends and potential romantic partners who fear being harassed in public.
Johnson, who lives in Philadelphia, also said that the mishap has completely derailed his music career and prevented him from making a living.
Johnson had missed the one-year statute of limitations of Pennsylvania, his home state, for bringing a defamation case while in prison, and after his release, opted instead to file his claims for libel and false light invasion of privacy in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, where plaintiffs are generally allowed a two-year window from the time a false report is published.
He argued that the more lenient statute of limitations should apply because the claims arose in Delaware, where Johnson has been unable to book concerts and has been spurned by promoters, disc jockeys and radio shows.
But U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District of Delaware said Delaware choice of law rules prevented the court from using the two-year statute of limitations.
Under the state’s borrowing statute, judges are required to use the shorter of two state’s conflicting statutes of limitations when a non-Delaware resident files suit based on causes of action that arose outside of the First State.
Stark said that Johnson’s alleged injuries were not specific to Delaware because he was experiencing similar troubles in at least 17 states where he used to perform. And the harm Johnson purported to suffer had been most keenly felt in his home state.
“While all of this shows that Delaware is among the places where plaintiff was injured, it does not show that his injury in Delaware was different—in kind, or in magnitude—than the injury he suffered in other parts of the country,” Stark wrote in a 12-page memorandum opinion.
“These injuries are suffered most significantly in the place where plaintiff lives and spends most of his time: Pennsylvania,” he added.
The complaint named 14 media companies as defendants—a group that included Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., TMZ Productions, Barstool Sports, BET Interactive, Gannett Co., CBS Interactive Inc. and Viacom Inc.
The case was captioned Johnson v. Warner Bros. Entertainment.