Ja Rule will plead not guilty to a Canadian assault charge. For real.
The rapper's lawyer, who was in court Monday to set a pretrial date, told reporters his high-profile client would plead innocent. "You can underline that three times," emphasized Steven Skurka.
Ja Rule, real name Jeffrey Atkins, did not attend the hearing in Toronto. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 6, while the case is expected to go to trial in early 2005.
The 28-year-old entertainer is a New Jersey native but had been in Toronto reportedly shooting the movie Assault on Precinct 13 with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne. Local cops there charged him with assault causing bodily harm last month following an incident at a nightclub in June.
Details surrounding the case have been murky because of a publication ban on the evidence surrounding the charge. Ja Rule's legal eagle obtained the gag order to avoid having the trial heard "before a man ever walks into a courtroom."
Skurka also said in a statement that "there's no celebrity justice here...you don't get treated differently in this country if your name is Martha, Michael or Ja Rule. Everyone is treated the same."
Last month, Ja Rule made a brief court appearance and, according to local media reports, was cheered by bystanders in the courthouse hallways. He was subsequently released on $10,000 Canadian bail (about $7,600 U.S.).
The hip-hop star, who scored a huge hit with his duet with Jennifer Lopez, "I'm Real," is also building a following within the U.S. justice system.
A Miami woman has sued Ja Rule and MTV for $1 million, claiming the rapper and his entourage trashed her rented mansion over the 2001 Memorial Day weekend.
For the grand sum of $46,000, homeowner Jeannette Varela rented out her 8,000-square foot house on Miami's exclusive Star Island three years ago to Ja Rule's label, The Inc., for four days with the agreement that there would be no video shoots, loud parties or oversized posses.
Ja Rule and MTV allegedly took advantage of the singer's luxurious surroundings to tape an episode of Cribs, passing off the property as his own without Varela's permission. In addition, footage from the show was illegally used to promote Ja Rule's role in The Fast and the Furious.
Varela's lawsuit goes on to claim Ja Rule threw a party for 600 guests, shipping some people in by tour bus, which resulted in severe damage to the driveway, walls and doors. The lawsuit claims that, "after the party, there were numerous syringes and condom wrappers strewn about the mansion," and evidence that marijuana was smoked on the property.
Not only was her estate trashed, Varela's suit also states that the wild weekend, "Caused a strain in the relationship between plaintiff and her neighbors," that include Gloria Estefan, Rosie O'Donnell and, now, Shaquille O'Neal.
In related legal woes, Ja Rule was busted two months ago in Manhattan for driving without a license and marijuana possession. The marijuana charge was eventually dropped against the Queens-born emcee after he shelled out $550 in fines and court fees, but he did spend a few hours behind bars July 2 in New York.
Ja Rule is likely to try more legit means of drumming up publicity this fall when his new album, R.U.L.E., drops in November.