Hip-hop and r’n’b producer Ryan Leslie has been ordered to pay $1 million to a man who recovered his laptop, after initially promising the figure as a reward in 2010.
Leslie emerged as one of hip-hop’s best new producers in the early ’00s, working with the likes of Cassie, Beyonce and Fabolous. As the New York Post report, the laptop in question – plus external hard-drive – contained material Leslie was working on for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne, as well as Leslie’s latest solo album Les is More. It was recovered by Armin Augstein, a shop owner, in November of 2010, but Leslie refused to pay the reward, suggesting that Armin may have been part of the theft.
Following the court case, the NYP claim that “Leslie — who had earlier joked he would either “be writing checks or buying Maseratis” — insisted afterward, “I’m not disappointed” and said he would consider an appeal. He also remained unrepentant about his refusal to honor the reward, which he initially set at $20,000, but then increased to $1 million”:
“The reasons I defended myself in the case are the same reasons I believe Mr. Augstein is not entitled to the reward,” Leslie said.
“Leslie testified Tuesday that his offer was contingent upon his ability to retrieve several unreleased multitrack songs stored on the hard drive, which he said couldn’t be accessed after he got it back.
“But Judge Harold Baer Jr. yesterday told jurors that because Leslie disposed of the hard drive by returning it to the manufacturer after Augstein claimed the reward, they could assume that the data was there when Augstein handed it over.
“The verdict came about 45 minutes after jurors sent out a note saying they were divided because “we feel the $1 million is too high,” and asking if they could compromise on a lower amount.
“Leslie’s lawyers then sought some time to try to strike a settlement, but Augstein’s team said “that ship has sailed” and insisted that the jury be told to continue deliberating toward an all-or-nothing decision.”