The Complete History of Kesha’s Legal Fight Against Dr. Luke

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The conflict originated in 2014 with no resolution in sight. Photo: Getty Images.

In a current face-off that surrounds Kesha’s lawsuit against her former producer, Dr. Luke, and former head of her label, Kemosabe Records, accusations ranging from emotional abuse to rape have spiraled into a court case. Kesha, a young female pop star, has signed a contract with Kemosabe Records, which currently restricts her from being released. This situation highlights the ongoing fight for her freedom and brings attention to the power dynamics within the music industry. It is one of the biggest stories in the history of the music industry, and it could have easily happened at any time in the past ten years, given the prevalence of similar stories in the pop music world.

After years of waging a legal war, the two parties involved in a long-running dispute have finally reached a settlement and a Gag Order has been issued. With the release of Kesha’s new album, it marks the completion of the intense history of litigation. Despite multiple lost battles, it seems that there is no end in sight for their ongoing legal war.

In September 2005, the 18-year-old singer Kesha Sebert had a small cameo on Hilton Paris’ show. After he heard her demos and convinced her to move from Los Angeles to Nashville, Luke Dr. A.K.A. Lukasz Gottwald, also known as Dr. Luke, signed her. She also had a brief appearance on Nicole Richie’s show, The Simple Life, as well as Hilton Paris’ show.

Kesha woke up undressed in Luke’s hotel room after losing consciousness the previous night. Kesha’s mother received a phone call from a confused Kesha the next day. Luke administered the date-rape drug GHB to Kesha and took her to his hotel room, where he sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious at Nicky Hilton’s birthday celebration, held at her sister Paris’s residence in the Hollywood Hills in October 2005. According to Kesha’s legal complaint and her mother’s account (Pebe Sebert, who is a writer for Kesha), Luke purportedly referred to the drug as “sober pills.”

She remembers the dialogue, ‘Mother, I am uncertain of my whereabouts. I believe we engaged in sexual activity. I feel discomfort and illness. I am unaware of the location of my garments. I believe it is necessary for me to seek medical attention.'” Kesha ultimately decided against going to the hospital. Pebe states in a subsequent written statement, “‘Mother, all I desire is to sing. I do not wish to be labeled as a victim of rape. I simply want to release my music.’ I disregarded my intuition.”

Ke$ha adopts her stage name, hoping to secure a contract with a prominent record company. She enters into a management agreement with DAS Communications, led by David Sonnerberg, who also represents the Black Eyed Peas and John Legend. However, a whole year elapses without Kesha releasing any music through Luke’s record label in 2006.

Despite the termination of their contract with DAS, Kesha continues to work on finding new opportunities. I asked him what he thinks about the situation, and he basically said that he owns me. He also mentioned that he’s planning to come forward and sign a new contract with me anytime I want. However, I have decided to fire my managers and lawyer within the next 24 hours. Just recently, Luke called me and claimed that Kesha coerced him. Both Kesha and DAS have agreed to bring her contract to Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Music Records, for the distribution of her future singles and albums. Once her contract with DAS ends, Kesha has found a deal with Warner Bros. Records for the release of her debut album, despite DAS claiming otherwise in 2008.

She was never paid and her female voice remains uncredited on most versions of the song, but he realized that she was just recording as Kesha when she happened to wander into the studio where Flo Rida was recording: it was a collaboration by happenstance. Kesha co-wrote and produced her first hit as an artist featured on Flo Rida’s “Right Round” in 2009, which became a hit.

After nearly five years of being a developing artist, Kesha finally gets her first solo hit with the debut single “Tik Tok,” which also debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Her first album, Animal, also debuts at No. 1 in January 2010, selling a total of 152,000 copies. Additionally, it spends nine weeks on the chart before Nielsen started counting streaming.

The company claims to have received unpaid commissions for the work they obtained for Kesha after she terminated their contract. In 2010, DAS filed a lawsuit against Kesha for a sum of $14 million, asserting that she allegedly disrupted their partnership. Additionally, they sued Dr. Luke for $12 million on similar grounds of interfering in their collaboration with Kesha.

DAS stated that it was owed more than half of the payment that Kesha ultimately ordered. It was claimed that Dr. Luke, who Kesha accused of inappropriate behavior, may have corroborated statements in which Kesha testified under oath that her livelihood and safety were threatened by Dr. Luke. Kesha’s lawyers also included statements in the deposition that Dr. Luke never made sexual advances or forced drugs on her, as well as stating that she never engaged in sexual acts with him. It was alleged that Dr. Luke engaged in certain unlawful and unethical actions against Kesha. She did not want to be a part of Kesha’s deal and alerted people involved in her personal life and career shortly after signing the original contract. This information was revealed in the 2011 deposition.

As part of the agreement, Kesha is transferred to Kemosabe while she is still bound by her contract with Luke’s KMI and RCA. In 2011, Dr. Luke establishes his own Sony subsidiary, Kemosabe, and assumes the role of CEO for the record label.

She later hints that she doesn’t have creative control over her music in order to stick to pop-y club hits and expand her roots rock with Kesha, as described by the producer in a New Yorker profile on her sophomore album “Warrior” as “strained,” forcing her to sing lyrics on “Sing Young” that she later deletes tweets about in the same year.

In January, Kesha checks into a rehab facility in Chicago for 30 days to treat her eating disorder, after completing her treatment and dropping the dollar sign from her name. In a later interview, Kesha blames Luke for pressuring her to lose weight and denies the allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Luke, which she reportedly “spontaneously” tells her doctors while in rehab. Later, Kesha’s mother gives an interview blaming Luke for the abuse and asks Kesha to professionally go by her real name, as she realizes that the part of her life that made her happy was just a façade.

Kesha files an explosive lawsuit against Dr. Luke, claiming criminal charges of breach of contract. She alleges that his actions caused severe depression, panic attacks, social isolation, and post-traumatic stress. The lawsuit also accuses Luke of long-term psychological and emotional abuse, including allegations of sexual abuse and forced drug use, leading Kesha to run barefoot down the Pacific Coast Highway to escape from him. One specific incident mentioned in the lawsuit involves Luke violently thrashing his arms at her and subsequently sexually abusing her. Kesha is also claiming battery and sexual assault, including an incident at Nicky Hilton’s party. This lawsuit against Dr. Luke in California is a bombshell, filed on October 14.

Rovner Jack, the manager, and Pebe, her mother, filed a countersuit against New York on the same day that Luke, Kesha’s own manager, filed his lawsuit. Kesha testified in 2011, stating that none of these allegations ever happened, and she also noted that it is a ploy to extort him. He denies all the allegations in Kesha’s lawsuit.

If she attempts to dispute his authority in New York, Luke initiates a distinct defamation lawsuit against Kesha’s mother, Pebe, in Tennessee, her place of residence, on October 29th.

A defamation lawsuit is ongoing, with Luke responding to claims made by Kesha. In the lawsuit, Geragos is filing a defamation lawsuit against Luke, responding to Kesha’s claims. Geragos denies both Luke and Gaga’s claims and suggests that former lawyer Mark Geragos will depose Gaga regarding Kesha’s lawsuit. Gaga, in a radio interview on December 2nd, stated that an unnamed music producer sexually assaulted her.

Dr. Luke countersues Kesha’s mom, alleging that her daughter’s lawsuit and the subsequent stress she experienced caused her to be medicated for PTSD.

Luke accompanies her to work, ensuring her safety.

On June 17th, a judge in California halted Kesha’s lawsuit at the request of Luke, alleging the abuse she outlined in her suit occurred in California. Kesha argues that all legal issues must be resolved in New York, where she signed the deal with Kemosabe Records, Luke’s label, involving a dispute over a clause in her contract.

Kesha, in an effort to be able to record fresh music without his involvement, files an urgent preliminary injunction request in a New York court to terminate her record contract with Luke. She argues that her career will suffer “irreparable harm” if she is required to wait until her sexual-assault lawsuit is decided. Additionally, she urges the court to expedite its decision on her original lawsuit. Sony, feeling “caught in the crossfire” and desiring the dismissal of Kesha’s lawsuit against them and Kemosabe, finally speaks out. They describe her lawsuit as a “transparent and misguided attempt to renegotiate her contracts.”

Luke’s defamation lawsuits against Kesha’s mom Pebe Sebert and manager Jack Rovner have been dismissed on February 6 due to lack of jurisdiction. In previous days, Pebe tweeted that Luke is supposedly not willing to compensate Kesha, her songwriters, and producers because Pebe “revealed the truth about him.” She also alleges that Luke coerced her into relinquishing songwriting credit on Kesha’s previous major success, Pitbull’s “Timber.”

The rally outside the courthouse started in the wake of her lawsuit, with dozens of fans from the #FreeKesha movement while Kesha is sobbing in court. The judge denied Kesha’s request to decimate the contract, which was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry, arguing that Sony and Luke, Kesha’s lawyers, had argued that Sony would not promote her music. Sony denied her. The judge stated that there has been no showing of irreparable harm and denied Kesha’s request to be permitted to release new music. A New York judge denies Kesha’s preliminary injunction to be released from her recording contract with Luke’s Kemosabe Records. In a devastating blow to Kesha’s freedom, the injunction loss on February 19.

Celebrities and musicians rally behind Kesha with a flood of support from February 21-25. Taylor Swift steps up to aid Kesha with her legal expenses, generously donating $250,000. In addition, Jack Antonoff offers his production services, proposing to either leak the material or patiently wait until the individual causing harm can no longer impede Kesha’s progress. Furthermore, Lena Dunham pens a heartfelt letter of support for Kesha and other survivors of sexual abuse. During her Brit Awards speech, Adele gives Kesha a special mention. Lady Gaga goes above and beyond, personally meeting with Kesha and cautioning the public against victim-blaming Kesha for speaking out about her abuse.

Her mom and Kesha, he asserts, are driven by financial incentives. She was comparable to his little sister, and he declares via Twitter that he did not sexually assault Kesha and has never engaged in any sexual activities with her, emphasizing his innocence. On February 22, Dr. Luke publicly addresses Kesha’s legal case without involving attorneys.

Kesha writes an emotional letter thanking her fans for their continued support: February 24th. She also responds to Dr. Luke’s extortion claims, stating that there has never been any discussion about renegotiating her record contract. Her focus is on breaking all ties that bind her to her abuser and doing the right thing, even if it means being willing to work with Sony for a better or bigger deal.

Sony’s statement shares that it is not in a position to terminate the contractual relationship between Kesha and Luke because of the agreement that exists outside the purview of Sony. However, fans plan to protest at Sony’s headquarters in New York City on 25 February, asserting Kesha’s right to refuse the label.

Kelly Clarkson offers more support to Kesha, describing Luke as a “good guy” but stating that he has not made specific allegations against him. She also mentions that her albums, “Without Suck Would Life My” and “Gone” would not have been released without her working with Luke, who she describes as a subsidiary of Sony, her record label. She further reveals that Kesha was “blackmailed” by her record label, as she speaks on a radio show hosted by Kesha, on 7 March.

Kesha argues that by compelling her to work for a company and an individual she no longer desires any association with, the ruling supports a variant of “enslavement.” In her official appeal on March 21, Kesha challenges the judge’s decision to reject her request for liberation from her recording agreement.

On April 3rd, Kesha revealed on Instagram that she would rather let the truth ruin her career than lie again for every monster, refusing to deal with Dr. Luke’s offer to release her from her record contract if she agreed to recant the rape accusations she made in her sexual-assault lawsuit.

On April 6th, a judge in New York throws out Kesha’s counterclaims of abuse against Dr. Luke, disputing Kesha’s argument in her appeal injunction, stating that the terms of Kesha’s agreement with Sony and Dr. Luke are not “unreasonably” acting and that not every rape is gender-motivated, citing lack of evidence and jurisdiction. The judge also states that the terms of Kesha’s agreement with Sony and Dr. Luke are not a form of slavery.

In collaboration with Major Lazer, Kesha unveils a tour. Additionally, she drops a track alongside Zedd and takes the stage at both Coachella and Dylan Fest. Kesha embarks on the journey of rebuilding her career during the months of April and May.

On April 27, Kesha’s mother dismisses her countersuit that was filed in 2014 against Dr. Luke.

On May 3rd, Kesha chooses to dismiss Mark Geragos as her legal representative, just like her mother did.

Kesha wins her fight to perform at the Billboard Music Awards on May 22. After attempting to block her from singing on the show, Kemosabe and Dr. Luke can’t mention the lawsuit or the grounds that Kesha can’t allow them.

Luke challenges the assertion, stating that Kesha ‘isolated herself.’; Subsequently, she characterizes the circumstances regarding her new music as compositions that are simply ‘remaining somewhere, awaiting finalization, refinement, and release’; Alternatively, she presents 28 songs to her record company, claiming that she independently funded their creation, and concentrates solely on her legal battle in New York to terminate her contractual obligations; Following an arduous legal entanglement lasting nearly two years, Kesha dismisses her stagnant abuse lawsuit against Dr. Luke in California; On August 1st, Kesha withdraws her lawsuit.

On September 1st, Kesha’s mother filed a second lawsuit against Dr. Luke, claiming that he continued to make defamatory comments about her, despite the alleged abuse, but she was not allowed to amend her original suit with the new complaints.

On January 31st, Kesha filed a separate lawsuit accusing Luke of being unsupportive of her music and refusing to approve or release any of her songs, claiming that he has not paid her royalties from her music and has financially cut her off. She also threatens to sue Lady Gaga for defamation, alleging that Gaga sent her a text message supporting Luke.

The claims she makes in the emails suggest that Luke, Dr. From 15th February, emotionally abused her. She also states in the emails that she has support for her claims. Luke appears to be trying to intimidate Kesha into dieting, saying that A-list producers and songwriters are reluctant to give her songs because of her weight. These claims from Luke are taken out of context in the emails.

Lawyers for Dr. Luke allege that Eisele collaborated extensively with Kesha to disseminate “false and damaging statements” in order to smear Luke’s reputation. As part of their efforts to obtain a subpoena, they are targeting Michael Eisele, a Kesha fan who manages a Kesha fan account on Twitter and played a role in organizing protests advocating for Kesha’s freedom, scheduled for March 10.

The judge argues that Kesha should have used California labor law to argue that her contract should have been terminated after seven years of battling lawsuits in New York Court. The judge also implies that Kesha should have known the risk of signing with Luke, given his allegedly abusive behavior in November 2008 when she signed the Prescription Agreement. The judge dismisses the claim as “too speculative,” but notes that it puts Kesha’s new music in jeopardy, as her contract with Sony was coming to an end. The judge says that Kesha cannot get out of her contract by claiming that Luke breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing by allegedly abusing her. The judge rejects Kesha’s amended countersuit against Luke, stating that she did not give appropriate notice to void her contract for songwriting and that she sought freedom from her record deal for a third time.

Following a period of six years, Dr. Luke departs from his position as CEO of Kemosabe Records, which falls under the Sony umbrella, on April 25. The specific circumstances surrounding his departure remain undisclosed, although he asserts that he continues to maintain a connection with Sony.

The lawsuit against Kesha’s mother, which was initially filed in 2014 by Dr. Luke’s Tennessee defamation, has been dismissed. Sebert acknowledges in a joint statement on June 23 that she “confesses she lacks any direct personal understanding of the incidents that took place on the evening of the claimed assault.”

Her third album, Rainbow, will be released this summer. Kesha, under Kemosabe Records, drops her initial solo track since the legal battle, titled “Praying,” on July 6th.

In their statement, Luke’s team is trying to manipulate the truth and draw attention from the fact that Gaga falsely accused him and exaggerated her role in the case. The texts that Luke’s team provided were heavily redacted, making it difficult to understand. Gaga sent these texts to Luke’s Dr., Accusing him of raping another artist, which led to her defamation case against him. Lady Gaga received subpoenas from Luke’s Dr. On July 30th.

According to a report from Vulture on August 8th, Luke Dr. States that Kesha must produce at least six songs on any album she releases in order to uphold the clause in her contract. Instead of profiting from the album, Luke will pursue the equivalent royalties from the producer in court.

Rainbow, Kesha’s third album, has been released, marking her first album since her legal battle with Dr. Luke commenced three years ago. The album was released on Kemosabe/RCA on August 11. Currently, Dr. Luke is pursuing defamation lawsuits against Kesha and Geragos, while Kesha has filed a countersuit and is also in the process of appealing her injunction.

Lady Gaga has agreed to testify in Luke’s defamation case and provide unredacted copies of the texts sent by Kesha in September. The deposition will take place in August 15th.

In the forthcoming years, Kelly Clarkson, who additionally expressed her refusal to collaborate with Dr. Luke, aligns her statements with those of Pink, as she asserts that she will never engage in professional endeavors with Dr. Luke in the future. “I am aware that irrespective of whether or not Dr. Luke committed such acts, this is the consequence he deserves due to his lack of moral character,” she conveys. Pink, in an interview with the New York Times, affirms these sentiments.

Dr. Luke, engaged in a legal battle with Kesha, is currently being introduced by Janelle Monáe, against the backdrop of Time’s Up movement. This live musical moment at the Grammys stage, on January 28, is particularly felt as Kesha delivers a powerful performance of “Praying”.

On May 29, a significant setback occurred in Kesha’s battle to break free from her record agreement with Dr. Luke, as her defamation lawsuit against him relates to a court case where she is forbidden from making any additional appeals for release. This ruling aligns with the decision of a previous judge and a New York appeals court, further complicating Kesha’s efforts.

Luke and Dr. Perry Katy confirmed that Luke did not rape Kesha, contrary to her outrageous lies and baseless accusations. It is disrespectful, irresponsible, and disrespectful for Katy Perry to make such statements following Luke’s legal team’s confirmation. Furthermore, new court documents disclose that Perry had a conversation via text message regarding the deposition and spread negative messages about Luke on social media and in the press. Lady Gaga also encouraged Kesha’s claims and spread negative messages about Luke. In addition to accusing Luke of rape, Kesha also alleged that she had been raped by the producer. These claims were made in a text message exchange between Gaga and Kesha, which was released as part of court documents filed in Luke’s defamation case. The previously redacted text messages were exchanged between Gaga and Kesha on June 13th, 2016.

The adage “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” holds true and is an appropriate statement to describe the altered excerpt targeting Kesha, as the CEO of the label is accused of rape in the conclusion of Sir Walter Scott’s 1808 poem “Marmion.” In response to the accusation, Luke’s legal team promptly denies the claim and publishes a statement to protect Luke’s reputation. However, Kesha’s legal team decides to amend their complaint and publish an email obtained during discovery, which remained private except for the altered excerpt targeting Kesha. Kesha’s legal team tells “Variety” that the exchange of text messages between Gaga and Kesha regarding the assault attempts to clarify the source of the allegation of sexual assault initially made against Katy Perry, the head of an unnamed record label. This attempt by Kesha’s lawyers is made on June 15th.

After learning that a judge was prepared to release her deposition in Luke’s defamation case against Kesha, Perry’s lawyer files an emergency motion to seal the deposition, arguing that Perry’s testimony should remain private and not be relevant to the public. The lawyer asserts that the deposition contains information that could make Perry vulnerable to gossip and frenzy, and therefore, it should not be germane to the public or tangential to the “gossip column.”

The ongoing defamation lawsuit against Luke’s Kesha by Perry’s Katy deposition was released on August 27th, along with a number of other testimonies against Kesha from Dr. Luke’s. Perry denies ever sexually assaulting Kesha, attributing the allegations to an unnamed music label CEO and Lady Gaga. Court documents identify John Janick as the CEO of A&M Geffen Interscope Records. Despite rumors spreading about Perry experiencing any assault, Janick, who says he does not recall hearing or spreading the rumors, brought up the rumor during a meeting with both Kesha and Gaga. However, Gaga maintains in her deposition that she has no recollection of hearing any rumors about Perry experiencing assault. Following the release of Perry’s previously sealed deposition, the producer claims that Kesha’s allegation is part of a malicious “design” to destroy his reputation and business.

Texts were released to address the tweets Gaga sent, indicating that she knows I can see her and wants me to know that she’s working hard. It means that she needs empathy and sympathy from me. According to the text conversation, Kesha was upset with Katy Perry for not coming forward with the allegation that Dr. Luke had raped her.

Her attorney attributes the weeping during the statement to the vocalist experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her personal sexual abuse. Gaga initiated the recorded statement by recollecting how she had initially encountered Kesha in Dr. Luke’s private recording studio, where Kesha was situated in the adjacent chamber wearing solely her undergarments. Gaga affirmed, “That was an image that — of something that occurred to me, and I felt and knew in my heart that she was speaking the truth, and I believe her.” Gaga supports Kesha in her legal conflict with Dr. Luke in a recently unveiled recorded statement, which occurred in September 2017. As indicated in the recorded statement, Gaga was in tears during the testimony. “So if you are inquiring about my perspective of his reputation, I formed my opinion of him and his reputation when I witnessed her in that adjacent room,” Gaga stated.

On June 3rd, Kesha unveils “Rich, White, Straight, Men,” her initial track of 2019, on YouTube.

Kesha joyfully revisits her debaucherous and pure roots in the trailer, saying that she had to address some very serious things. The singer notes that her fourth album, High Road, has a more positive outlook than Rainbow 2017, sharing the trailer for October 21.

Kesha’s fourth album, High Road, was released on January 31 through Kemosabe/RCA. In this exuberant project, she takes on the role of executive producer, and in the coming spring, she plans to showcase her new songs through a nationwide tour.

The court’s decision in February 2016 reignited the case, delivering a severe blow to Kesha and igniting a legal battle between Kesha and Dr. Luke. In a text exchange with Lady Gaga, Kesha made a false statement about Dr. Luke, alleging that he had raped Katy Perry. However, there is no evidence to support this claim, and the court found that it was defamatory per se. Furthermore, Kesha’s publication of this false statement also orders Kesha to pay Dr. Luke $373,000 in royalty fees.

Legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in November 2020 requires that plaintiffs in private-figure defamation cases must prove actual malice in order to qualify as public figures. This law aims to encourage only meritorious lawsuits and to deter bad faith litigation by awarding legal fees to defendants if the suits are found to be initiated with malicious intent.

The New York appellate court upholds the lower-court ruling from 2020, affirming that Kesha’s text to Lady Gaga was a defamatory statement and can hold Kesha liable. Additionally, the court states that Dr. Luke is not a public figure, at least for the limited purpose of this case, based on the dissent of two out of seven judges.

As Dr. Luke was not a prominent public figure, he had a lesser burden of proof to prevail in his defamation case based on a previous judgment. This judgment also grants Kesha the opportunity to pursue a counterclaim against Dr. Luke and seek damages, including reimbursement of legal fees. Dr. Luke is now required to demonstrate “by clear and convincing evidence” that Kesha acted with malicious intent when she revealed the 2016 text messages to Lady Gaga, in which she accused Dr. Luke of raping Katy Perry. On June 30, a judge in New York ruled that a recently established law protecting free speech is applicable to Dr. Luke’s defamation lawsuit against Kesha.

According to Rolling Stone, the trial in which evidence pieces are crucial cannot take place on April 14th due to late discovery. This is because Kesha’s appellate court rules prevent the use of key evidence in the trial. Reportedly, Kesha’s lawyer Greg Clarick stated that Luke Dr. Allegedly sexually assaulted Kesha and then gave her a pill to make her “feel better” in 2006, as noted by his client.

According to a recent submission in Manhattan Supreme Court, Kesha alleges that Dr. Luke is employing all available means to delay the defamation trial scheduled for August 31. The submission states, “Despite Dr. Luke’s claim in his correspondence that he is enthusiastic to proceed with this case, he has been employing all possible measures in the Court of Appeals to hinder its progress.”

According to Variety, in order for each statement to be proven as false or made with reckless disregard for the truth, clear and convincing evidence would be necessary to establish that Gottwald would be held to that standard. This means that he must demonstrate that the statements in question, which are claimed to be defamatory, were made about a public figure. The court, reversing a previous ruling from 2021, determined that considering Dr. Luke’s fame, he will indeed be regarded as a public figure during the trial scheduled for July.

I am looking forward to closing the door on this chapter of my life and starting a new beginning, but I cannot recount everything that happened. Kesha wrote in a statement with Luke Dr. On June 22nd, “Only God knows what happened that night.”

Kesha wishes me well in my move and understands that this is a difficult time for me. It is time for me to put behind the matter that has been difficult for me. For the sake of my family, I have fought vigorously to clear my name and I would never do anything to harm her or drug her, as Luke stated in his statement. I am absolutely certain that nothing happened. While I appreciate Kesha acknowledging that she cannot recount what happened that night in 2005, I am grateful.