Actress Tiffany Haddish and comedian Aries Spears have been accused of sexually abusing two siblings who were minors at the time, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.
The plaintiffs, identified in the complaint only as Jane Doe and John Doe, allege that they were “groomed” and “molested” during the making of comedy videos by Haddish and Spears in 2013 and 2014, when Jane Doe was 14 years old and John Doe was seven. They are accusing the actors of sexual abuse of a minor, sexual battery, sexual harassment, negligence, intentional inflection of emotional distress, and other injuries.
“Upon information and belief, Haddish groomed Plaintiffs after initiating contact with them,” the complaint says. “As a result of Haddish[‘s] and Spears[‘] actions, the plaintiffs are both traumatized for life.”
The complaint says that Haddish was “a longtime family friend of their mother” and that they considered Haddish as “an adoptive relative whom they referred to as ‘Aunty Tiff,’ and whom in turn referred to Plaintiffs as her nephew and niece[.]”
The allegations arise out of two encounters: one involving Jane Doe and Haddish, and another involving both plaintiffs and both defendants.
In the summer of 2013, the complaint says, Haddish enlisted Jane Doe to participate in an apparent satire of a sandwich commercial in which Jane Doe was instructed to eat a sandwich in a sexually suggestive manner.
“Haddish forced a 14-year-old victim to perform simulated fellatio to record commercial sex acts and the production of child pornography,” the complaint alleges. “Haddish knew the child was under 18 and sexually exploited Plaintiff Jane Doe for-profit and likes on social media.”
The complaint says that it wasn’t until she saw Haddish in a movie years later that she remembered the incident.
“Upon information and belief, Haddish performed a similar scene in her move ‘Girls Trip’ where Plaintiff Jane Doe unlocked a repressed memory and realized the severity of what happened to her,” the complaint says.
The second alleged incident occurred in 2014, the complaint says, when Haddish and Aries made a video called “Through a Pedophile[‘]s Eyes” featuring John Doe, who was seven years old at the time.
That video, according to the complaint, featured Spears leering at the child and bathing with him, as well as exploitative close-up shots of the child, who was wearing only underwear at the time.
“Haddish was present during the filming of the entire video and aided, abetted, and watched Spears sexually molest a child,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint says that the video was recorded at Spears’ house, and that Jane Doe was at the home but not present when the alleged abuse occurred.
According to the plaintiffs, the video was posted to Spears’ YouTube channel, website, and social media accounts. The plaintiffs also allege that the video was posted to the website “Funny or Die” and wasn’t removed until last May.
In a statement to USA Today, Funny or Die said that it had removed the video years ago
“‘Funny Or Die’ found this video absolutely disgusting and would never produce such content,” the company said. “We were not involved with the conceptualization, development, funding, or production of this video. It was uploaded to the site as user-generated content and was removed in 2018 immediately after becoming aware of its existence.”
Jane Doe, now 22 and living in Nevada, is John Doe’s legal guardian. According to the complaint, both plaintiffs have ongoing trauma from the alleged encounters with Haddish and Spears.
“Plaintiff Jane Doe feels constant remorse knowing that she was only a few feet away when Spears was molesting her 7-year-old little brother in the other room,” the complaint says. “Plaintiff Jane Does is 22 years of age now and has never dated. She is scared that she will be taken advantage of again and led down a path of false trust like the path that Haddish led her down.”
The complaint says that Jane Doe “has developed a social disorder that prevents socializing and making friends,” and that she “does not trust anyone and has no friends due to the actions of Haddish and Spears.”
John Doe, too, has developed a social disorder, depression, and anxiety, the complaint says, and that he “stays to himself.”
“Mr. Doe stays in his room at home and places band-aids over the cameras on his electronics for fear of being watched or recorded,” the complaint says. “Mr. Does does not take pictures anymore for any occasion because his molestation was filmed.”
The complaint also outlines the effect of the videos on the plaintiffs’ mother.
“Plaintiff’s mother has been distraught, immensely sad, depressed, shocked, cold, numb, nauseous, and suicidal for trusting Haddish with her children,” the complaint says.
“Plaintiff’s mother felt that she failed as a mother for trusting Haddish in temporarily taking care of her children, failing to protect her children from being molested by both Haddish and Spears, and feels taken advantage of by a close family friend (Haddish) who sacrificed her children for fame.”
An attorney for Haddish calls the lawsuit “frivolous” and says that the mother of the plaintiffs is targeting his client.
“Plaintiff’s mother, Trizah Morris, has been trying to assert these bogus claims against Ms. Haddish for several years,” lawyer Andrew Brettler said in a statement. “Every attorney who has initially taken on her case — and there were several — ultimately dropped the matter once it became clear that the claims were meritless and Ms. Haddish would not be shaken down. Now, Ms. Morris has her adult daughter representing herself in this lawsuit. The two of them will together face the consequences of pursuing this frivolous action.”
Spears’ lawyer Debra Opri told USA Today that her client “isn’t going to fall for any shakedown.”
The complaint notes that the plaintiffs’ mother had at one point borrowed money from Haddish, and that Haddish had refused to allow the mother to pay her back. The complaint also says that a 2018 settlement with Spears for $15,000 is not legally binding.
The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of past, present, and future damages, including lost earnings.
[Photo of Aries Spears by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Photo of Tiffany Haddish by Robyn Beck/AFP.]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]