A paparazzi photographer is suing Ye – the musician formerly known as Kanye West – for assault, battery and negligence after he was caught on camera grabbing her phone and throwing it into the street.
The photographer, Nichol Lechmanik, says she was just doing her job as a celebrity photojournalist when she captured Ye’s content.
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“He put his hand in my car like he was going to hit me, he took my phone out of my hand and then angrily threw it on the street,” Lechmanik said at a press conference on Thursday. “He caused so much fear that I haven’t been the same since.”
Lechmanik filed suit this week in Ventura County Superior Court near Los Angeles, California, which was obtained by Variety.
The freelance photographer previously called 911 and reported the incident to the police. Following an investigation earlier this year, the Ventura County district attorney said Lechmanik refused to press charges against Ye. But now, in her lawsuit, the paparazzo is seeking damages, claiming that she has suffered “great mental and emotional pain” and has been prevented from doing her job, causing her to suffer from “lost earnings”. The suit says Ye’s behavior was “intentional, wanton and malicious.”
The incident took place on January 27, 2023, when Ye was outside a sports academy in Ventura County, where he was attending his daughter’s basketball game. His ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, was also at the game. According to the lawsuit, after Lechmanik took photos of Kardashian entering the sports academy, she saw Ye “angrily confronting” another photographer on the street outside his vehicle and began filming the alleged incident from her cell phone.
“Given Defendant Ye’s reputation for violence against photographers, his history of physical harm to them, and based on his threatening body language, Plaintiff became fearful for the safety of the photographers,” the lawsuit states, adding that at the driver’s seat remained when she began filming. . Her companion sat next to her in the passenger seat and also filmed from his phone when Ye walked to their car. “She didn’t want to get out of her car because she was afraid of the defendant Ye,” the suit says, stating that when Ye started walking towards her car, her “nervousness increased.” When he got near her car, the suit says, he spoke “aggressively” and became “furious”.
“You all won’t see me like this,” Ye told Lechmanik, which is stated in the lawsuit and can be heard on the footage. “When I say stop… stop your cameras.” The photographer responded to Ye by explaining that he is a celebrity and insinuating that she was just doing her job.
“He reached into plaintiff’s car and snatched her phone from her hands. While doing so, the prosecutor was afraid that the defendant Ye had a weapon or would hit her,” the indictment said. “Suspicious Ye then threw her phone into the street towards oncoming traffic” and gave a “death look” before walking away.
On Thursday, the photographer, accompanied by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, got emotional when she spoke at a press conference.
“He has no right to attack me, mistreat me or make me afraid to practice my profession,” Lechmanik said. “I want you to know that he can’t do what he did to me without the consequences. I am determined to stand up for myself and let him know that he needs to change his disgusting behavior.”
When a reporter asked her about violating a celebrity’s privacy, she said she has been working as a photographer for 10 years and has always respected her famous subjects. “I just think people don’t understand the hardship we get into as photographers,” she said. “I have never experienced another incident like this with any other celebrity… I want people to know that there are good people out there who are in this profession. We are aware of the celebrities. We are always concerned about their well-being. I would never do any harm.”
Allred insisted that Ye is interfering in her client’s livelihood. She said Lechmanik hopes to set a precedent for other paparazzi photographers who endure celebrity bad behavior at work.
“Professional photographers who make a living by being a photographer have a right to do so without the intervention of a celebrity,” said Allred. Speaking of Ye, she said: “He can express his displeasure with words, but he has no right to seize someone else’s property — in fact, that property is the tool a photographer uses to earn his or her living as a photographer .” – and prevent them from making a living by filming what is happening at the time. He must understand that he was in a public place. The street is a public place. Everyone has the right to film in a public place. If he does not want to risk being filmed, he can choose to stay in his home where he has privacy.”
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