Derrick May Drops Defamation Case Against Sexual Assault Accuser

by | Feb 26, 2021 | Stories | 0 comments

Content warning: This article is about sexual assault.

Detroit DJ Derrick May will no longer move forward with a defamation – false light lawsuit he filed against one-time collaborator and sexual assault accuser Michael James in October. May cited financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and undue stress as having prompted his dismissal of the case.

In a January 29th Zoom hearing for Michigan’s Third Judicial Circuit Court, Judge Edward Ewell had ordered May to pay $10,000 for the first round of discovery to prove actual malice in the case. May’s attorney, Kyle Dupuy, submitted a notice of intent to dismiss the suit on Wednesday that was approved in a subsequent hearing today, February 26th.

The motion said that May “is under financial hardship as he has not been able to work in the last year,” and that “the ongoing litigation is causing unwanted attention and stress on [May] and his family.”

How it Started

May, who is often credited as one of the originators of Detroit techno, had argued in his initial lawsuit filing that James’ grudge against him stemmed from a royalty dispute over “Strings of Life.” James contributed the piano riff to the 1987 single, which played no small role in May’s breakthrough as a DJ and producer.

In November 2019, Michael James began making posts to his personal Facebook page claiming that women had come forward to him with allegations of sexual misconduct involving Derrick May. The alleged acts ranged from making inappropriate comments to luring women back to his hotel room to rape them. James’ longstanding grievances with May caused most social media onlookers to dismiss his accusations for the better part of a year.

Shortly after the accidental overdose of DJ and producer Erick Morillo in September, James made a post that served as a watershed in his ongoing effort. By comparing May to Morillo – who was set to appear in court for a sexual battery case three days after his death – James inserted the May allegations into a broader conversation about sexual abuse in the dance music industry.

How it’s Going

Derrick May was subsequently removed from the 2020 lineups for Paris Electronic Week, and Paxahau‘s Movement Selects Vol. 1, and the 2021 Haçienda At Tobacco Dock event. He also quietly resigned from the MOCAD board of directors. In November, DJ Mag and RA published articles including a combination of anonymous and on-the-record allegations of sexual harassment and assault involving him.

In January, a follow-up article in RA cited seven more accounts of alleged misconduct – all anonymous except for one given by DJ Paulette. May has since been taken off the lineups for Dutch festival Awakenings as well as 51st State Festival in the U.K.

In a recent interview with SelectorAnnabel Ross – who penned the aforementioned RA pieces – discussed how difficult it is for victims of abuse to come forward. “We are talking about people who have gone through deeply traumatic experiences from which they are often not healed,” she said. “It is already very, very difficult to talk about these things.”

Selector encourages anyone with information regarding incidents of sexual misconduct in the electronic music industry to email with guaranteed confidentiality.

Image credit: Dave Clarke

This article was updated to include that Derrick May had been removed from the 2021 lineup for Haçienda At Tobacco Dock.

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