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Kevin Hart Sex Tape Saga: Former Friend Files $12 Million Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Jonathan “J.T.” Jackson alleges Hart breached their 2021 settlement agreement by failing to “publicly exonerate” him of “baseless extortion allegations”

Kevin Hart

Elyse Jankowski/FilmMagic

When Kevin Hart jumped on Instagram three years ago to discuss his bizarre 2017 sex tape scandal and the related felony extortion charges filed — and eventually dropped — against his friend Jonathan “J.T.” Jackson, the superstar comedian said he was happy to be “moving on” from that chapter in his life.

Now, the precise wording Hart used to deliver that seemingly unscripted message to his millions of followers is the subject of a new $12 million breach of contract lawsuit filed by Jackson in Los Angeles.

In his new 23-page complaint filed Wednesday and obtained by Rolling Stone, Jackson says Hart’s social media post shared on October 27, 2021, was far from spontaneous. Instead, it was the subject of a “meticulously negotiated” settlement agreement signed by the parties nearly three months earlier, Jackson reveals. According to the lawsuit, Hart was contractually obligated to use “specific verbiage” that would “publicly exonerate” Jackson, a professional bowler and actor who had a minor role in Hart’s 2014 movie Think Like a Man Too. Hart purportedly was required to note not only that the criminal charges against Jackson had been dismissed but that Jackson was fully cleared of any involvement in an extortion plot and that the scandal had cost Hart “a valuable friendship.”

For instance, Jackson alleges Hart explicitly agreed to say, “I lost someone close to me that I loved and still have very much love for, or high levels of love for, and I’m proud to say that all charges against J.T. Jackson have been dropped, and he is not guilty and had nothing to do with it.” According to Jackson, 47, Hart “blatantly broke” their agreement.

In his Instagram video, Hart instead said, “J.T. Jackson has recently been found not guilty, and those charges have been dropped against him, and I can finally speak on what I once couldn’t.” Hart noted that their friendship “was lost,” but the statement appeared neutral. “It’s over, and I’m happy that it’s over,” he said about the saga. Hart did not include the line that Jackson “had nothing to do with it.”

“The wording of Hart’s statement, meticulously negotiated and detailed in the contract, was crucial to repairing and remediating the severe damage inflicted upon plaintiff’s reputation by the baseless extortion allegations that Hart aggressively promoted and publicized,” Jackson’s new lawsuit says. The statement Hart ended up delivering, according to the complaint, “dilutes this intent by framing the exoneration more as a conclusion to a chapter in Hart’s own life rather than a clear and unequivocal exoneration of plaintiff.”

A rep for Hart, 45, did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.

The new lawsuit marks the latest twist in the controversy that started when Hart and Jackson took a trip to Las Vegas together in August 2017. A few weeks later, according to court filings in a related case, Hart’s then-pregnant wife, Eniko Parrish, allegedly received an anonymous message that said, “Unfortunately your husband Kevin Hart is cheating on you.” The message purportedly included a Dropbox link to an edited video showing Hart engaged in an intimate act with a woman in his private suite at the Cosmopolitan hotel. That evening, Hart posted an Instagram video apologizing to his wife and family. He admitted to a “bad error in judgment” and vowed he would “not allow a person to have a financial gain off of my mistakes.” The post led someone using the Instagram handle Misterjood to leave a public comment that said, “Give me $5 Million or I’m releasing the video. No need to make this go public. You had your chance.”

Hours later, on September 17, 2017, the now-defunct website Fameolous.com published the surreptitiously recorded video footage. Within days, TMZ reported that the FBI was investigating a multimillion-dollar extortion plot against Hart. That same week, model Montia Sabbag held a press conference with her then-lawyer, Lisa Bloom, to confirm she was the woman in the video. She proclaimed her innocence, saying she had nothing to do with the recording or any alleged extortion. (Sabbag would go on to file a $60 million lawsuit against Jackson and Hart, claiming the men conspired to create and disseminate the footage to help promote Hart’s Irresponsible Tour. A judge dismissed Sabbag’s civil claims against Jackson in August 2022, citing Sabbag’s lack of “diligence,” most notably her failure to obtain Jackson’s case records from prosecutors, who by then had dropped their two extortion claims. Sabbag’s remaining claims against Hart would be dismissed in June 2023 when Sabbag’s lawyer failed to appear at a final status conference ahead of trial.)

According to Jackson’s new lawsuit, Hart and his lawyers played an integral role in the events that led to his arrest. Jackson alleges Hart’s camp misled investigators about key evidence shortly before more than a dozen armed law enforcement officers kicked down his door with guns drawn and raided his home on January 23, 2018. In a separate lawsuit against members of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed last December, Jackson alleges the search warrant for the raid relied on a prior search warrant that described the Misterjood demand for $5 million as the alleged extortion attempt. In the warrant, investigators described the demand as a “private message” sent before Hart posted his apology video.

Eventually, the DA investigator who requested the search warrant admitted that the Misterjood message was a public comment, not a private message and that it was posted by someone as a response to Hart’s public apology video. It was never linked to Jackson. After this revelation, prosecutors dismissed one of the two criminal extortion counts. They eventually dropped the entire case.

Jackson’s December lawsuit against the DA officials alleges they violated his civil rights, fabricated evidence, and engaged in a malicious prosecution. The officials responded with a motion to dismiss the action in March, claiming they’re entitled to immunity. They also reaffirmed their allegation that electronics seized from Jackson during the 2018 raid revealed Jackson’s “possession of the sex tape and emails linked to [Jackson] attempting to sell the tape to media outlets before it went public.”

According to prior court records cited in the dismissal motion, a media outlet received an email from someone trying to sell the video before its release. The outlet allegedly shared the email with Hart’s team, and in response, Hart’s lawyer had someone reach out to the anonymous seller posing as a sex tape broker eager to purchase the footage. Subsequent negotiations eventually collapsed. Prosecutors alleged the email address contacted by Hart’s fake broker linked back to Jackson’s IP address.

For his part, Jackson is adamant he never committed a crime, did not sell the video and absolutely never extorted anyone. “Despite the allegations and the supposed connection of the IP address, the facts are I was not arrested on the day of the raid on January 23, 2018. I was only arrested on April 30, 2018, for an entirely unrelated incident concerning an alleged extortion email sent to Kevin Hart on April 27, 2018. This delay in arrest casts doubt on the strength and reliability of the evidence initially claimed by the DA’s office, especially if any IP addresses were related,” Jackson said in a email sent to Rolling Stone.

Jackson’s new lawsuit says “false accusations” were the driving force behind his eventual arrest. In particular, he alleges Hart “claimed” to have received an email on April 27, 2018, from someone demanding 20 bitcoins to prevent the release of more of the sex tape footage. The alleged email — sent seven months after the scandal broke — was reported to prosecutors and cited by a district attorney investigator as a basis for Jackson’s arrest. Jackson alleges in his new lawsuit that the copy of the email eventually shared by prosecutors indicates it was “fabricated.” He claims analysis by two experts determined it was created using Microsoft Word on May 17, 2019, more than a year after the alleged extortion attempt.

In his complaint, Jackson says his career and reputation have suffered profound harm in the aftermath of the failed prosecution. He says more harm has resulted from statements made in Hart’s docuseries “Don’t F**K This Up,” a six-episode reality show following Hart’s life that premiered on Netflix in December 2019. In the series, which is still streaming, Hart reflects on the sex tape scandal and the end of his friendship with Jackson. He said it was “tough to talk about” the incident but lamented the loss of “somebody that you truly trust, love. That’s hurt.”

The series premiered after all the charges against Jackson had been dropped, but Hart’s longtime friend and fellow comedian Will “Spank” Horton still appears on the screen summarizing prosecutors’ failed theory of the case: “I guess he placed a camera in the room, videotaped the act, came home, edited up the video and then sent him an e-mail or ransom of like, ‘Look I will release this video if you don’t pay me.’ I think it was like $10 million or something like that,” Horton says. (After the series premiered, Jackson started gearing up to possibly file a defamation lawsuit against Hart, leading to the 2021 settlement that’s now at the center of Jackson’s breach of contract claim.)

Jackson says the now-dismissed criminal charges and high-profile Netflix series, purportedly viewed by millions of people, caused profound harm to his career and well-being. “The persistent availability of this content continues to perpetuate the false narrative, causing ongoing harm to plaintiff’s professional and personal life,” the lawsuit says. Jackson, a Navy veteran, alleges the fallout has “exacerbated” his service-related PTSD and “caused significant mental health struggles.”

Jackson is suing Hart and his Hartbeat Productions for breach of written contract, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He’s asking for at least $12 million in real damages as well as punitive damages to be determined at trial.

“This entire ordeal has caused profound emotional distress and significant professional setbacks for both my wife and me. It’s extremely unfortunate that someone I considered my brother, my pots and pans for 16 years, we are now on opposite sides of the fence,” Jackson said in a statement sent to Rolling Stone. “Despite everything, I still wish him well. But it’s been three years since Kevin promised to help clear my name, to no avail. So here we are. Through this lawsuit, I aim to restore my reputation, seek accountability, and ensure that such injustices do not happen to others.”

From Rolling Stone US