A paparazzi photographer is suing Ye — the musician formerly known as Kanye West — for assault, battery and negligence after he was caught on-camera grabbing her phone and throwing it into the street.
The photographer, Nichol Lechmanik, says she was just doing her job as a celebrity photojournalist when she was capturing content of Ye.
“He reached into my car as if he were going to hit me, he grabbed my phone out of my hand and then angrily threw it into the street,” Lechmanik said on Thursday during a press conference. “He caused so much fear that I have not been the same since.”
Lechmanik filed a lawsuit this week with the Ventura County Superior Court near Los Angeles, Calif., which has been obtained by Variety.
The freelance photographer previously called 911 and filed a police report after the incident. Following an investigation, earlier this year, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said Lechmanik declined to press charges against Ye. But now, in her lawsuit, the paparazzo is seeking damages, claiming she sustained “great mental and emotional pain” and has been prevented from doing her job, therefore suffering from “lost earnings.” The suit says Ye’s conduct was “willful, wanton and malicious.”
The incident occurred on January 27, 2023, when Ye was outside of a sports academy in Ventura County where he was attending his daughter’s basketball game. His ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, was also at the game. According to the lawsuit, after Lechmanik took photos of Kardashian entering the sports academy, she noticed Ye outside of his vehicle “angrily confronting” another photographer on the street and started filming the alleged incident from her cell phone.
“Given Defendant Ye’s reputation for violence against photographers, his history of physically harming them, and based on his threatening body language, Plaintiff became fearful for the photographers safety,” the lawsuit states, adding that she remained in the driver’s seat when she began filming. Her associate was sitting in the passenger’s seat next to her, and was also filming from his phone when Ye walked towards their car. “She did not want to get out of her car because she was afraid of Defendant Ye,” the suit says, stating that as Ye began walking towards her car, her “nervousness increased.” When he came near her car, the suit states, he was “speaking aggressively” and became “enraged.”
“You all ain’t gonna run up on me like that,” Ye said to Lechmanik, which is stated in the lawsuit, and can heard in the footage. “If I say stop…stop with your cameras.” The photographer responded to Ye explaining that he is a celebrity, insinuating that she was just doing her job.
“He reached into Plaintiff’s car and ripped her phone out of her hands. As he did so, Plaintiff was fearful Defendant Ye had a weapon or would strike her,” the suit says. “Defendant Ye then threw her phone onto the street towards oncoming traffic” and gave a “death stare” before walking away.
On Thursday, accompanied by her attorney, Gloria Allred, the photographer became emotional as she spoke during a press conference.
“He has no right to assault me, batter me or cause me to be afraid to pursue my profession,” Lechmanik said. “I want Ye to know that he cannot do what he did to me without facing consequences. I am determined to stand up for myself to let him know that he must change his abhorrent behavior.”
When asked by a reporter about the notion of violating a celebrity’s privacy, she said she has been working as a photographer for 10 years and is always respectful of her famous subjects. “I just think that people do not understand the hardship that we go to as far as photographers,” she said. “I’ve never had any other incident happen like this with any other celebrity… I want people to know is that there are good people that do this profession. We’re mindful of the celebrities. We’re always concerned of their well being. I would never do any harm.”
Allred insisted that Ye is interfering with her client’s livelihood. She said that Lechmanik hopes to set a precedent for other paparazzi photographers who endure bad behavior by celebrities on the job.
“Professional photographers who earn their living by being photographers have the right to do that without being interfered with by a celebrity,” Allred said. Speaking of Ye, she said, “He can express his displeasure using words, but he does not have a right to grab someone else’s property — in fact, that property being that tool used by a photographer to make his or her living as a photographer — and stop them from earning a living by filming what is going on at that moment. He needs to understand he was in a public place. The street is a public place. Anyone has the right to film in a public place. If he doesn’t want to take the risk of being filmed, he can choose to stay in his home where he’ll have privacy.”