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Nicki Minaj and her husband accused in lawsuit of harassing his sexual assault victim

Rapper Nicki Minaj and her husband, Kenneth Petty, are accused of harassing and intimidating a woman he sexually assaulted more than two decades ago.

The woman, who has publicly identified herself as Jennifer Hough, filed a lawsuit Friday accusing the couple of trying to force her to recant the rape. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Minaj even went so far as to bribe Hough.

Attorneys for Petty declined to comment. Minaj’s team could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

The suit alleges that Petty and Minaj began contacting Hough and members of her family after Petty was arrested last year when authorities said he failed to register as a sex offender in California over the rape case. It says that days after the arrest, Hough was contacted by a childhood friend. During a conversation about the rape, she told the friend that she “wished it could all just go away forever,” the suit states.

The friend offered to help Hough, who received a phone call from Minaj a few days later, according to the lawsuit. Minaj allegedly told Hough that she could have her publicist draft up a statement recanting the rape but Hough declined, the suit says.

“Within days of this conversation, Plaintiff and her family suffered an onslaught of harassing calls and unsolicited visits,” according to the lawsuit.

It further alleges that one of Hough’s family members was offered $500,000 from Minaj if Hough recanted the rape. On another occasion, Hough was offered $20,000 if she signed a prepared document retracting her statements about Perry. Minaj also offered to send happy birthday videos to Hough’s teenage daughter “as a bonus,” the lawsuit states.

“Plaintiff could not believe that Defendant Minaj would go this far to bribe her, “the suit alleges.

Hough said Petty sexually assaulted her at a home in the Queens borough of New York City on Sept. 16, 1994, the lawsuit states. Hough, then 16, was on her way to school when she saw Petty standing at a bus stop. Petty was 16 at the time.

The lawsuit alleges that Petty grabbed Hough by the back of her jacket, pressed a knife into her back and told her to “start walking.” Petty allegedly took Hough to a nearby house as she “began pleading for her life,” according to the lawsuit.

After raping Hough, Petty looked in a mirror and stated, “I am the man, I am the man,” the suit alleges. Hough was able to flee the house and ran to her high school where she told a security guard. The police were contacted and Petty was arrested at the home.

Hough describes how she was repeatedly intimidated and harassed by people in the neighborhood following Petty’s arrest. The lawsuit claims that Hough’s family also began “to turn on her” because they feared retaliation from Petty and his associates.

Because of the threats, Hough’s family made her attend Petty’s court hearing and request that the charges be dropped, but it was denied. Petty ended up accepting a plea deal in the case and served nearly four years in prison.

Hough said in the lawsuit that she had to move out of New York because of the threats she had been receiving. She thought she had put the situation behind her until Minaj and Petty began contacting her.

“Plaintiff has not worked since May of 2020 due to severe depression, paranoia, constant moving, harassment, and threats from the defendants and their associates,” the lawsuit states. “She is currently living in isolation out of fear of retaliation.”

Minaj previously commented about her husband’s past, writing in an Instagram post that he and the victim were “in a relationship” — a claim Hough denies in the lawsuit. The rapper also told fans on her Queen Radio show that her husband was wrongfully accused of rape.

Hough’s attorney, Tyrone A. Blackburn, told NBC News on Saturday that his client decided to come forward because she has spent the past several years trying to “move on with her life and away from the horrors of 1994.”

“My client had no contact with, or any interest in coming after Mr. Petty or Ms. Minaj — they came after her,” he said. “Now she fights back!”

Blackburn said Hough wanted to stay out of the limelight and accused Petty and Minaj of coming after her child. According to the lawsuit, a man approached Hough’s daughter in 2020 asking if she knew of Petty.

“They did a whole bunch of things to this woman probably within a 7 months span that most people would not be able to endure,” the attorney said. “She moved three times. She changed her phone number three times. She did everything that she possibly could to avoid these people and yet they wanted her to say her true life experience was a lie. That what she went through on that day in 1994 never happened. Enough is enough.”

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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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House passes John Lewis voting rights bill, sends measure to Senate for tougher fight

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212. All Republicans voted against the legislation.

The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a wafer-thin majority.

The House returned from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a resolution for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes funding for much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The procedural motion used to pass the multitrillion-dollar resolution paved the way for the House to vote on the voting rights bill, which was re-introduced last week by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement last week that Congress had “not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility” to pass the bill.

Shortly before its passage, Pelosi said on the House floor that the bill would honor Lewis’ legacy.

“We should have the right to vote and shouldn’t be diminished by anyone. It is unpatriotic to undermine the ability of people who have a right to vote, who have access to the polls,” she said. “As John knew, this precious pillar of our democracy is under attack from one of the worst voter suppression campaigns since Jim Crow.”

It isn’t the first time House Democrats have tackled election law. In March, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to change campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country by registering eligible voters whenever they interact with government agencies, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing the country’s voting systems.

However, Senate Republicans filibustered the voting rights legislation in June, and the vote to advance an amended version of the For the People Act split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 votes needed. All Democratic-aligned senators voted to begin debate, and Republicans unanimously voted to block the bill.

Passage of the voting measure was the final vote of the week for the House, whose members are leaving Washington and won’t return until Sept. 20.

Haley Talbot contributed.

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