Lee Daniels has made his move in the lawsuit filed against him by Sean Penn. The Empire creator, who got served with legal papers after comparing the Oscar-winning actor to Terrence Howard in the context of domestic violence, is asking a judge to move the suit to federal court.
The legal reason for this, according to various sources, is for the purpose of jurisdiction: Daniels lives in New York and Penn in Los Angeles, and the filmmaker wants the proceedings moved to the Big Apple, his home turf. Daniels may get his way since the suit is for $10 million, and any lawsuit topping $75,000 is eligible for federal court.
The whole mess started when Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter that Empire star Howard shouldn't be viewed as a wife beater when other celebrities are given a pass.
"[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden, he's some f****n' demon," Daniels said, referencing Howard's highly publicized legal woes. "That's a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America."
In response to Daniels's claims, Penn tapped former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, who stated: "As a result of Penn's status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks." The complaint continues, "Daniels falsely equates Penn with Howard, even though, while he has certainly had several brushes with the law, Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest."
Defamation lawsuits are notoriously difficult to win and Penn will have to prove that Daniels knew he was lying when he brought up Penn's reputation. Maybe this is more of a warning shot to others who might say or write negative things about Penn.
In the meantime, Empire continues to fly high. Check out our interview earlier this year with Howard's co-stars Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett.
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(Photos from left: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair, Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)