Rapper Yo Gotti is asking a Forsyth County judge to vacate a $6.6 million judgment against him, according to court papers.
Last month, Judge Todd Burke of Forsyth Superior Court awarded $6.6 million in damages to Michael Terry, manager of local singer Young Fletcher, whose legal name is Lamont Fletcher. According to Burke’s order Yo Gotti, whose legal name is Mario Mims, was paid $20,000 by Terry to rap a verse on Young Fletcher’s song. Established artists will sometimes rap with new artists in an effort to boost new artists’ sales and airplay.
But Fletcher was never able to release the song because Yo Gotti didn’t sign paperwork allowing for the song’s release, Burke’s order said. Terry alleged in an affidavit that Yo Gotti, who has been putting out music since the 1990s, would have helped Young Fletcher get more attention. And Yo Gotti tried to lure Fletcher to his label, Epic Records, Burke’s order said.
After a nonjury trial last month, Burke found that Yo Gotti engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices. He ruled Fletcher should get $2.2 million in damages, then tripled that to $6.6 million.
Yo Gotti and his attorneys didn’t attend the trial held on May 28 and didn’t file a written answer to the lawsuit, which was filed in Forsyth Superior Court on Jan. 24, 2018.
Yo Gotti’s attorneys said there’s a good reason for that — Yo Gotti wasn’t officially served with the lawsuit, though a member of his security team got the complaint from a sheriff’s deputy when the rapper was in Winston-Salem last year.
Lamont Wynne, a member of Yo Gotti’s security team, didn’t have the authority to accept the lawsuit on the rapper’s behalf and was not told by the deputy to hand the document to Yo Gotti, the rapper’s attorneys, Brent Powell and James Cooney III, said in court papers filed Friday.
Clarke Dummit, Terry’s attorney, has said he spent months trying to track down Yo Gotti. A Forsyth County superior clerk made an entry of default in the case after Yo Gotti and his attorneys failed to file a written answer to the case.
During the hearing, Dummit entered two affidavits into evidence. One of the affidavits was from Terry, who is the chief executive officer of Stack Dollars Empire LLC, a Winston-Salem record label and talent-management company. The other was from Reggie Green, a Forsyth County resident who has worked in the nightclub and music industry for about 20 years.
According to the affidavits and Burke’s order, what Yo Gotti had agreed to do was something fairly routine in the music industry — get paid to perform on a lesser-known artist’s song as a way of breaking that artist into the mainstream.
The problem is that Yo Gotti never signed a “side artist agreement,” which would have allowed Young Fletcher to release the song with Yo Gotti’s verse, according to Burke’s order. And that was despite attempts Terry and Young Fletcher made to contact Yo Gotti.
Then Yo Gotti contacted Young Fletcher and offered him $150,000 to leave Terry and join Yo Gotti’s label, Burke’s order said. And finally, Yo Gotti recorded a song with the verse he did for Young Fletcher’s song “so it would intentionally make the plaintiff look like he was copying Yo Gotti.”