Marion "Suge" Knight has sued the drug dealer who allegedly helped him breathe life into Death Row Records.
The rap mogul filed his lawsuit Thursday, accusing Michael Harris of fraud, conspiracy and racketeering as well as attempted extortion. He is seeking $106 million in damages.
Harris, who is currently serving a 28-year sentence for narcotics distribution and attempted murder, claims he contributed more than $1.5 million in 1991 to help Knight found his record label, an assertion that Knight has repeatedly denied.
On Friday, Knight's attorney, Dermot Givens, alleged that Harris was a federal informant, who came up with a "a scheme to blackmail various entertainment industry entities" by threatening to sue over his alleged drug money investments.
"There was an effort to silence rap music and specifically Suge Knight, who was its icon," Givens told the Associated Press.
Knight's suit claims that Harris and and others, including attorneys David Casselman and Steven Goldberg, were behind a civil suit filed by Harris' wife Lydia in 2002 that resulted in a $107 million judgment against Knight last year.
Knight was ordered to pay up after a judge ruled that he had unfairly blocked Lydia Harris from the label's profits, although she purportedly became an equal partner in 1989.
However, Knight contends that Lydia Harris was a "straw" plaintiff in the civil suit, which he claims was controlled by her husband.
According to Knight's suit, Michael Harris reached a settlement with Interscope Records in 1996 that blocked him from suing third parties associated with the settlement, including Knight himself and Death Row Records (now called Tha Row).
Casselman, who was one of the lawyers who represented Lydia Harris in her suit, denied both that she was a straw plaintiff and that Michael Harris would have been unable to sue Knight himself.
"Michael Harris settled a claim against Interscope Records," Casselman told Los Angeles' City News Service. "Lydia Harris did not sign any settlement agreement.
"Lydia Harris was listed as the vice president of the company which later became Death Row Records," he added. "The suggestion that she is a straw plaintiff is ridiculous."
Givens claimed that Lydia Harris later agreed to settle with Knight for $1 million and certain rights to use Death Row music. However, Goldberg said that the ruling against Knight still stands and that the rap mogul's lawsuit is "a last-ditch gasp" to avoid paying.
"It's a pathetic and desperate joke," he told the Associated Press.
In June, Michael Harris filed for divorce, after learning that his wife was attempting to hammer out a lesser settlement with Knight on the sly. Because he named Knight in his divorce petition, the rap kingpin's assets were frozen by a judge in September, effectively blocking him from making a deal with Lydia Harris.