The rapper Afroman is facing a civil lawsuit from several Ohio police officers who say he caused them “emotional distress” by using their images on social media and merchandise after they raided his home last year.
In a complaint filed March 13, seven members of the sheriff’s department in Adams County accused the rapper (real name Joseph Forman) of violating their rights by posting the images, which were snapped by surveillance cameras while they executed a search warrant with guns drawn on his home last August.
The deputies (Shawn D. Cooley, Justin Cooley, Michael D. Estep, Shawn S. Grooms, Brian Newland, Lisa Phillips and Randolph L. Walters, Jr.) claim they have been “subjected to threats, including death threats” because of Afroman’s posts.
“As a result of defendants’ actions, plaintiffs have been subjected to ridicule, even in the further performance of their official duties, by members of the public,” a lawyer for the officers wrote. “It has made it more difficult and even more dangerous for plaintiffs to carry out their official duties.”
In a response statement posted to Instagram on Thursday (March 23), the rapper said the officers were “criminals caught in the act of vandalizing and stealing money” who had “lost their right of privacy.”
“My video footage is my property,” he said. “I used it to identify criminals, who broke into my house, stole my money and disconnected my home security system. I use my footage of my property to raise money to pay for the damages they done and to identify the criminals operating inside of the sheriff department.”
Later in the same statement, an attorney for the rapper said she was “planning to counter sue for the unlawful raid, money being stolen, and for the undeniable damage this had on my clients family, career and property.”
According to a report by the Cincinnati Enquirer, deputies raided Afroman’s Winchester, Ohio home on Aug. 21, seizing $5,031 in cash and other evidence while executing a search warrant linked to suspicions of drug trafficking. No charges were ever filed and the money was later returned. At the time, the rapper publicly claimed that $400 was missing from the amount returned, but a state investigation eventually found that the discrepancy was due to a miscount, not missing cash.
After the search, Afroman repeatedly posted video and images of the raid on social media, using them to express outrage at alleged damage done to his property and at what he viewed as excessive use of force. One video showed officers searching his home under the title “watch cops steal money.” He later used some of those images on t-shirts and other merchandise, including one that compared one of the officers to an obese character from the animated sitcom Family Guy.
In the complaint filed last week, the officers claimed those posts and merchandise amounted to an unauthorized commercial exploitation of their likeness, as well as an invasion of their privacy.
“Some of defendants’ postings … gave publicity to matters concerning the private lives of Plaintiffs which were not of legitimate concern to the public,” the officers wrote. “As a result of defendants’ unreasonable publicity of the private lives of plaintiffs, they have suffered embarrassment, ridicule, emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of reputation.”
Read the entire complaint here: