Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Police harassment costs Tommy Lee $20m, says manager - Lawyer threatens to sue State for abuse of power

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer
Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee Sparta, the popular but controversial dancehall artiste, has lost more than $20 million in earnings over the last three years because police investigators have been forcing promoters in western Jamaica to remove him from their events, the entertainer's attorney and management team have charged.

Ernest Smith, the long-time attorney for Tommy Lee Sparta, whose real name is Leroy Russell, revealed yesterday that he,along with the entertainer's management team, was now compiling evidence and is planning to file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the State.

Smith charged that police investigators had been telling party promoters that they would not be issued a permit or would have it cancelled if Tommy Lee Sparta was listed among the performers. "They are told you either scratch him off your show or you get your permit cancelled. As his manager tells me, they have had to refund deposits on several occasions," Smith said.

"It is a total and complete case of abuse of power. It is the type of abuse that is actionable in a civil court for substantial damages. The man has been prevented from working," the attorney lamented.

Several attempts to get a comment from the Police High Command yesterday were unsuccessful. Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell confirmed that the entertainer had been transferred to Montego Bay, St James, where he is being held under the state of public emergency, and indicated that he was not aware of Smith's allegations.

But according to Tanya Thelwell, Tommy Lee's manager, the harassment by the police dated back three years. With a price tag of between $500,000 and $1.5 million per event, Thelwell said that her client has "easily" lost more than $20 million in the last 36 months.

"I think that there is somebody within the force who has power and is abusing it," she charged.

Thelwell said that the police, in order to justify their actions, have told promoters that they have intelligence that Tommy Lee's presence at their events would attract rival gangsters and could trigger a feud. "The third [reason for the police's action], which is my favourite, is that they have intelligence that if Tommy Lee comes to the area, he is going to get gun salute from the crowd," she said.

"I don't know how the police have so much intelligence on a lot of things and still have not done anything," Thelwell added.

Tommy Lee has been in police custody since Sunday, when he was arrested in Manor Park, St Andrew, after he performed at the televised talent show, Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com