A Georgia jury has sentenced Sony Music to $160 million for the company’s alleged “role in failing to protect” the victims of a fatal shooting that occurred at a Cousin Steese concert in 2017.
A jury in DeKalb County, Georgia, found Sony partially responsible for the incident earlier this month, although until today the multimillion-dollar verdict went unnoticed. The fatal shooting at the center of the case occurred in November 2017 at the Underground Atlanta’s Masquerade venue during a show headlined by Cousin Stizz.
According to local reports, before the rapper from Boston (who released several albums through RCA Sony Music) started performing, one of the visitors shot four people. Regional media also reported that the fatal accident occurred after a short argument, and 23-year-old Jonathan Bautista was reportedly arrested in connection with the shooting.
Two of the victims, 21-year-old Ewell Inoa and 22-year-old Jovan Diaz, both reportedly aspiring rappers, died due to their injuries. Rachel Saint-Fleur, the property manager of Ewell Inoa, filed a lawsuit in June 2018, and Xavier Diaz, who represented the property of Jovan Diaz, filed a separate complaint. The lawsuits were eventually consolidated and reviewed at a recent trial.
“They argued a little bit and left it as it was,” Ewell’s brother Inoa told Fox 5 Atlanta of the verbal altercation that preceded the shooting, which reportedly unfolded when the victims were on stage and inflamed the crowd. “Something that didn’t last a minute. And then they were eventually killed from there.”
As mentioned earlier, Sony Music has now been ordered to pay $160 million for its alleged failure to protect those who attended the show.
Law firm Beasley Allen, headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, detailed the verdict in an official statement, and in a statement, attorney Parker Miller acknowledged that the trial was “incredibly emotional” for the families and friends of the victims.
“Obviously, such cases do not happen often. It was a mass shooting at a crowded concert. There were several deaths, and Gio and Wells suffered a lot before they lost the fight for life, as eyewitnesses told,” Miller said.
“The trial was incredibly emotional because of what these families and the whole world have lost. One of these men was told he would become a father just hours before the shooting occurred. Add to this the fact that the concert put everyone at risk, and this defendant refused to participate in the trial, and you will get the verdict that we saw here,” he concluded.
At the time of this writing, Sony Music does not seem to have considered the verdict in an official release or post on its website. About 10 days ago, several people died (many were injured) as a result of a crowd crush at London’s Brixton Academy. Brixton has since closed.