Not only is it the latest legal action resulting from an alleged dustup between Rich – one half of the country duo Big & Rich – and Ashley that took place at Rich’s private club earlier this year, but it’s also the second defamation lawsuit over the encounter.
First, a little background.
Ashley allegedly entered Rich’s private club in March without permission and reportedly was escorted out of the establishment.
Then Rich sued Ashley in early April, saying the “Nashville Star” contestant, while appearing on a radio program, falsely claimed Rich struck him in the face during the incident at the club.
Ashley countered by filing assault charges against Rich, claiming, not only did Rich hit him in March, but that he assaulted him in June 2008 at a club where Ashley was performing.
According to arrest warrants, Ashley claims Rich walked onstage near the end of the set, wrapped his arms around Ashley’s neck, verbally threatened him and then “squeezed” and “jerked” his neck several times.
Last week, Rich turned himself into Nashville police, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault and one misdemeanor count of harassment, and was released. Rich claims Ashley filed the charges in retaliation for Rich suing Ashley.
Rich also said Ashley and his lawyer demanded $2.9 million in return for dropping the assault and harassment charges.
Which brings us to this week’s defamation lawsuit. Ashley says Rich’s allegation that he and his lawyer demanded $2.9 million to settle the charges is false. Ashley is seeking unspecified damages.
Rich spoke to the Associated Press last week after being charged with assault and harassment, saying the legal battle between him and Ashley had been stressful and had distracted him from promoting his recent solo album and preparing for an upcoming Big & Rich summer tour.
“I'm disappointed that something like this has to be in the press when so many things are going on in the world that are important,” Rich said. “It's a waste of time, but unfortunately that's what's going on.”