Wellington musician wins libel suit over sexual assault allegations

A Wellington hip-hop musician accused on social media of sexual assault has won his libel suit against another musician after no defense was offered.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Wellington High Court has ruled that Tafara Mutingwende, who goes by the stage name ‘Theo Outlandish’, was defamed by Joshua Cooper-Taepa in an Instagram livestream in October 2020 watched by more than 200 people.

He claimed that Mutingwende and his associates were involved in sex offenses against more than 40 girls, including rape, drug-related rape and sex with minors.

In the livestream, Cooper-Taepa explained that his aim was to “expose” the truth about Mutingwende and his associates, and claimed he had been contacted by 40 girls making allegations against them.

Two women then joined the livestream at his request, one claiming that up to 100 girls had been abused and one person had been abducted.

In his written judgment, Judge Francis Cooke noted that Cooper-Taepa, who plays “Euginthecut” and “KC4L”, did not defend the claim and there was no reason to say that the allegations were true.

“They are clearly defamatory of Mr. Mutingwende. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that such statements would not lower Mr. Mutingwende in the estimation of well-meaning members of society at large.”

Mutingwende told the court that he received more than 100 abusive messages on Instagram after the posting, and it caused huge damage to his reputation in the music and fashion industry and his well-being staff.

After allegations on social media of sex offenses by a band of Wellington musicians, police launched an investigation called Operation Emerald with reports of around 20 women.

A man was charged in connection with this investigation in December of the same year.

The judge said that the fact that charges were brought against an associate of Mutingwende did not mean that the allegations against him were true.

He awarded costs against Cooper-Taepa.

“I understand that Mr Mutingwende is legally assisted, which means the price will be relatively modest.”

However, Judge Cooke refused to subject him to a permanent injunction, saying it was not necessary.

“I have no evidence to suggest that Mr. Cooper-Taepa will continue to make these allegations. If he did, of course, there could be further repercussions for him.”