Former Fugees member Pras is preparing to sue 50 Cent, Kyrie Irving and Rolling Stone over social media posts and a news article that alleged the rapper was an informant for the FBI.
An attorney for Pras, whose real name is Prakazrel Michel, sent notification letters out Wednesday to representatives for 50 Cent, Irving and Rolling Stone. The letters — obtained by The Times — focused on Instagram and Twitter posts, as well as a Rolling Stone article that included the allegedly defamatory comments about the rapper being a “rat,” “government informant” and “FBI informant.”
Florida law requires plaintiffs to notify all parties with a letter that includes the alleged defamatory statements at least five days before filing a lawsuit. Michel’s legal team plans to sue in Miami-Dade County.
Jonathan Noah Schwartz, who is representing Michel, wrote that the statements made by the celebrities and news outlet led the rapper to lose business deals and contributed to less revenue from his music.
“It is and was absolutely and demonstrably false for You to publish that Michel was a ‘government informant,’” Schwartz wrote in the letter sent to Rolling Stone. “Labeling a hip-hop artist such as Michel, the reputation of whom is dependent upon ‘street credibility’ and not being a ‘snitch,’ a ‘government informant’ most certainly tends to subject said hip-hop artist to hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt and/or disgrace, along with injury in their trade or profession.”
David Kenner, the attorney who defended Michel during a recent federal criminal trial that ended with the performer convicted of political conspiracy, also plans to sue. Kenner, who has defended the likes of Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg, said he lost clients because of the alleged defamation, according to the letters.
“The Rolling Stone article resulted in the false and defamatory label being made in hundreds of viral local, national, and international media news stories and blog posts that have harmed the business interests, reputations … of Pras and attorney Kenner,” Michel’s spokesperson, Erica Dumas, said in a statement emailed to The Times. “It is unacceptable for any media outlet to publish unfounded and false allegations that can damage the businesses and reputations of individuals and put them at risk.”
Dumas went on to criticize 50 Cent’s labeling of Pras as a “rat” and Irving’s “FBI informant” tweet as placing Michel and Kenner’s “safety at risk.”
Representatives for 50 Cent (real name Curtis James Jackson III), Irving and Rolling Stone did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The defamation allegations stem from testimony Michel gave during his own criminal trial last month. Michel was convicted of various charges tied to an illegal foreign influence scheme, which included a plan to get former President Trump to extradite a Chinese national living in the U.S. The man was wanted for criminal charges in China.
“I took it upon myself to report because I thought the FBI should know,” Michel testified during that trial, referring to his communications with the U.S. government during the scheme.
In its coverage of the trial and testimony, Rolling Stone referred to Michel as “an informal FBI informant” in the original version of an April 18 article, according to an archived version of that article. The article was eventually edited to say that he “voluntarily met with FBI agents,” erasing the “informant” language.
But by the time that edit was made, stories about Michel’s testimony — many of which quoted the Rolling Stone article — had spread widely online, according to the letters. Many highlighted the “FBI informant” detail.
On April 24, rapper and TV producer 50 Cent posted on Instagram a screenshot of a hip-hop blog post with a headline naming Michel as an FBI informant. He captioned the photo, “I knew this fool was a Rat! I’m glad I never f— with this guy,” according to the letter. The post was later deleted.
The following day, NBA star Irving tweeted about the case, writing, “A whole FBI informant was in the Fugees for that long??” in reference to Michel.
“Got me Wondering how many more informants are in Entertainment/Media/Politics silently destroying revolutionary movements from the inside,” Irving continued. “No matter what I gotta stay Poised and Aware of who I am around.”
The tweet remains live on his account.
Michel addressed the “informant” labeling earlier this week, telling TMZ, “Look, I was never in the past, present, or future an FBI or a CIA informant. Never ever. If people want to check it out, look at the testimonies — they could see that all within the records, and all the D.C. courts.”
“This is not a Tekashi 6ix9ine situation,” he continued, drawing a distinction between himself and another rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez. While Hernandez faced charges such as conspiracy to commit murder and armed robbery in 2019, he cooperated with the government and testified against his fellow gang members in exchange for a lighter sentence. He originally faced a minimum of 47 years in prison but was eventually sentenced to two years.
In Michel’s criminal case, a jury on April 26 found him guilty on all counts of conspiracy, concealment of material facts, making false entries in records, witness tampering and serving as an unregistered agent of a foreign power. The charges included a scheme to illegally contribute to former President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
The trial included testimony from former Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the latter of whom received financing for “The Wolf of Wall Street” from an alleged co-conspirator, Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, who fled the U.S. to avoid charges.
Michel is awaiting sentencing. According to prosecutors, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.