April Sellers’ lawyer responds to Kevin Powell’s harassment claims

Our January 31 story “Kevin Powell claims ‘ruthless harassment’ from White Minnesota after defamation lawsuit,” continues to spark conversations around what led to Powell losing the lawsuit brought against him by Minneapolis dancer April Sellers.

In the Q&A, Powell, a longtime activist and celebrated author, shares his side of the story, which he says was not properly explored during the trial and subsequent media coverage. He alos shares how he and his wife, Jinah Parker, now face extensive raccial harassment.

Since then, the MSR has received numerous comments and feedback on the article, including from Sellers’ lawyer Aaron Scott, who claims inaccuracies in Powell’s account.

Read below for his commentary on specific passages from Powell’s interview.

Powell: “We waited two weeks to respond, and only because whoever April Sellers also happened to post the original hate email to Facebook (a space with one billion people), and only after speaking with Rohan Preston of the Star Tribune, my colleague of 25 years or so, who said the email sounded like something April Sellers in Minnesota would send, because he knew her and had observed her over the course of years.”

Scott: These allegations about Rohan Preston are false, were the subject of extensive testimony under oath at trial, and falsely impugn the character of Rohan Preston. Rohan Preston testified about exactly what he told Kevin Powell during their phone call and specifically denied saying anything to the effect that “the email sounded like something April Sellers in Minnesota would send.” In fact, Rohan Preston testified that he never believed the email had been sent by April Sellers and urged Kevin Powell to do more research into the identity of the sender.

Powell: “Second, we sent the open letter Sat., Nov. 4, with my BCCing [blind copy emailing] it to about 35 people, none of whom ever responded in any form.”

Scott: It is demonstrably false that none of the more than 30 people to whom Kevin Powell sent “Open Letters” falsely attacking April Sellers “ever responded in any form.” During the course of the litigation, Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker lost four separate discovery motions addressing their failure to produce documents and the mysterious, inexplicable destruction of email and text message data that they had an obligation to produce.

During the middle of the trial, Kevin Powell’s attorney attempted to cross-examine a witness using a chain of Facebook messages that the Defendants had failed to produce despite their obligation to do so. This led to additional sanctions by the Court and the disclosure of three separate Facebook message chains between Kevin Powell and recipients of the “Open Letters” introduced at trial as exhibits 182, 183, and 184. Kevin Powell’s narrative that no one “ever responded in any form” to his allegations against April Sellers is knowingly and demonstrably false.

Powell: “The next time we heard anything was in late December 2017, from Sellers’ lawyer Aaron Scott, saying we were being sued for over $500,000. There was no offer by April Sellers’ lawyer to make an apology publicly, no offer to make a public retraction, nothing. Just a demand for money.”

This claim is demonstrably false. The December 14, 2017 letter included a section titled “Demand for Retraction and Compensation.” It instructed Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker to: “(1) take all immediate steps to retract and correct the false statements you have spread about April Sellers; (2) identify to our firm every person to whom your false allegations have been made and when; and (3) compensate Ms. Sellers for the damage you have caused.” Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker inexplicably took no steps to retract their false claims and actively thwarted efforts to determine how far their false stories had been spread, concealing evidence and receiving Court-imposed sanctions for their lack of cooperation.   

Powell: “From June 2018 to right before the trial in December 2018, we offered several times an apology and a retraction, and every single time her attorney rejected it, saying money had to be attached, as much as $200,000-$300,000. Even moments before the trial begun, Scott and Sellers rejected an offer to accept an apology. So, it is patently false to say that this could have been remedied from the beginning with a simple apology. The lawyer never asked for one; he asked for money.”

Scott: These claims are again knowingly false. Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker have never apologized to April Sellers even now, more than a year after they spread their false stories about her. It was not until the end of August 2018 — after more than seven months of litigation during which we had taken the Defendants’ depositions, twice won discovery motions sanctioning Defendants for their conduct, won a motion to add a claim for punitive damages into the case, and established that Kevin Powell’s text messages had inexplicably disappeared because of what he claimed was a “phone malfunction” — that Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker first raised the possibility that they would be willing to say something complimentary or apologetic to April Sellers if she dropped her lawsuit and received nothing more from them. This concept was further explored in a court-required mediation in September, but never again. It is completely and utterly false that “moments before” the beginning of the trial an offer to apologize was made and rejected.

Powell: “So the question also begs itself now, for us: Where is the apology to us for being dragged through this for a year, for the thousands of dollars we had to spend, borrow, raise, simply to deal with this? And where is the apology to us for having our reputations slandered and smeared over and over again?  Yes, we greatly empathize with April Sellers of Minnesota. We would love to apologize to her directly, but two wrongs do not make things right. The lawsuit and dragging us through an absolutely unnecessary trial were completely wrong and inhumane.”

Scott: Kevin Powell and Jinah Parker are not the victims in this case. The fact that Kevin Powell believes he is entitled to an apology at this point is very revealing—especially given that neither he, nor his wife, have offered any apology to April Sellers despite having known for more than a year that they accused the wrong person. The reality is that he and his wife could have apologized to April Sellers at any point since they falsely attacked her in November 2017 and they have never done so.