Hip-Hop Editor Wins Suit Over Her Firing

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

After a tumultuous two-week trial, Kimberly Osorio, a former editor in chief of the Source magazine, won a workplace lawsuit against the popular hip-hop monthly, and a Manhattan jury awarded her $15.5 million.

"This is a victory for women in hip-hop," Osorio told the hip-hop Web site SOHH.com after the verdict Monday night. "I stood up and I won."

Osorio, who was fired by the Source last year, sued the magazine and its founders, David Mays and Raymond Scott, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, defamation, retaliatory discharge and maintaining a hostile work environment. The defendants responded that Osorio was fired in March 2005 for "poor performance," including her decision to publish a cover photo of rapper Nelly without his posse and running a negative review of a CD by rapper Fat Joe.

Osorio, now an editor at BET.com, testified that Scott repeatedly begged her for sex, and that another editor threatened to "knock me upside my [expletive] head."

The jury of six men and two women threw out the discrimination and sexual harassment complaints but found that Osorio was fired in retaliation for complaining to her bosses about discrimination and sexual harassment. In addition, the jury ruled that Scott had defamed Osorio in an interview after her firing.

The defendants quickly announced that they would appeal the verdict.

"This will be knocked out on appeal," Mays said in a telephone interview yesterday. "She won't collect on any of this."

The eight-day trial was enlivened by testimony about life in the Source's offices in New York, which was said to include watching porn videos, graphic threats of violence, and the spreading of rumors that Osorio, Mays and Scott had sexual relations with various rappers.

During the trial in U.S. District Court, Osorio's attorney, Kenneth Thompson, told Judge Jed S. Rakoff that Scott -- who is also a professional rapper known as Benzino -- shouted "Coward! Chump! Uncle Tom!" at him as he walked to the men's room during a recess. Scott denied the charge. The judge gave Scott the choice of staying in the courtroom or being escorted out of the building by a marshal.

"I'll leave," Scott said, and a marshal took him out.

Scott has long been a controversial figure in the rap world. In 2003, he released a Benzino album that included a song attacking rapper Eminem, and the Source promoted it by publishing a cartoon that depicted Benzino holding the bloody severed head of Eminem. "That's all part of hip-hop," Mays explained yesterday. "That's part of the game of being a hip-hop artist."

Both Mays and Scott left the Source in January and recently started a new publication, HipHop Weekly, which published its first issue this week. According to its press release, the magazine includes "exclusive photos of DMX going after the sound man at a recent Long Island concert" and "an exclusive report on Jay Z stating, 'I'm out for dead president Bush' while performing."

Yesterday, Mays praised Scott as "a great man" who was unfairly maligned by Osorio's lawyers during the trial.

"They tried to assassinate his character because he didn't go to Harvard like me," Mays said.

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