Frank Ocean Beats Estranged Father’s $14.5 Million Libel Suit
Frank Ocean beat a $14.5 million libel suit from his estranged father earlier this week when a California federal judge ruled that the dad hadn’t shown that his son defamed him. Ocean’s dad, Calvin Cooksey, alleged that a 2016 Tumblr post that recounted him calling a transgender waitress an anti-gay slur ruined his chances to find success in the music and entertainment industry.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said that while the court doesn’t have to rule whether the statement was truthful, Calvin Cooksey still had failed to meet necessary elements to make his defamation claim.
“Based upon other deficiencies in the plaintiff’s case, the judgment has to be for the defendant,” Judge Wilson said.
The post didn’t call out Cooksey by name and Cooksey, who represented himself, didn’t produce any witnesses who saw the post and believed it was about him. Additionally, the judge said any claim for damages is “speculative.”
Ocean sat next to his lawyers during the trial and quickly left the courtroom after the verdict was read. After announcing his decision from the bench on Tuesday afternoon, the judge is expected to deliver a full written decision today.
“It was a super sad case,” Frank Ocean’s attorney, Keith G. Bremer of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara LLP, Bremer told Pitchfork in a statement. “I am sorry that my client had to go through this and am glad that we could bring closure.”
The suit comes from a June, 2016 Tumblr post that Ocean published after the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed. In it, Ocean recalled a childhood memory of being at a New Orleans restaurant with Cooksey, who called their transgender waitress a “faggot.”
Cooksey filed his suit in February. He says he tried to get Ocean to remove the post without any success and that the post put him “in the middle of a terrorist attack on the gay community.”
Frank Ocean argued that Cooksey’s suit doesn’t explicitly provide a category of libel that the post allegedly falls under nor does it show how he has been professionally injured. The post is also substantially true, Ocean said, as he described the incident at the restaurant to the best of his recollection, according to a trial brief.
Here is the Frank Ocean Tumblr post in full:
I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law. I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in. I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month. I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us. I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t. Many hate us and wish we didn’t exist. Many are annoyed by our wanting to be married like everyone else or use the correct restroom like everyone else. Many don’t see anything wrong with passing down the same old values that send thousands of kids into suicidal depression each year. So we say pride and we express love for who and what we are. Because who else will in earnest? I daydream on the idea that maybe all this barbarism and all these transgressions against ourselves is an equal and opposite reaction to something better happening in this world, some great swelling wave of openness and wakefulness out here. Reality by comparison looks grey, as in neither black nor white but also bleak. We are all God’s children, I heard. I left my siblings out of it and spoke with my maker directly and I think he sounds a lot like myself. If I being myself were more awesome at being detached from my own story in a way I being myself never could be. I wanna know what others hear, I’m scared to know but I wanna know what everyone hears when they talk to God. Do the insane hear the voice distorted? Do the indoctrinated hear another voice entirely?