In September, Sean Penn sued Lee Daniels, the co-creator of the TV show Empire for defamation after Daniels named Penn when talking about domestic abuse. Daniels was noting disparities in society’s tolerance for violence in white and black men.

Penn was outraged by the mention and argued in his lawsuit that allegations of abuse against him are all false. He said that Daniels harmed his reputation with this statement. Daniels moved to dismiss the defamation case and Penn is firing back, bringing in the big guns, his ex-wife, pop goddess Madonna. In a sworn declaration attached to Penn’s latest court filing, she denies that Penn ever hit her, according to Billboard.

A Convoluted Case

Penn’s initial complaint was that Daniels mentioned his name when discussing the legal troubles of the Empire actor, Terrence Howard, who has been repeatedly accused of physically abusing women and has reportedly admitted as much. Daniels moved to dismiss the case, arguing that what he said in his interview doesn’t rise to defamation.

Daniels’ attorneys wrote that Penn’s lawsuit “attempts to silence Daniels’ honestly held opinion, a contribution to the marketplace of ideas voiced during the nation’s agonizing debate about racial disparity and domestic violence. The First Amendment abhors attempts to chill speech on hot topics.”

Penn’s attorney retorted in the actor’s amended complaint, “Unfortunately for Daniels, his statements — which by direct reference to Howard’s misconduct, falsely accuse Penn of committing serious, multiple crimes against women — are not protected by the First Amendment. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed almost 100 years ago, the First Amendment is not absolute. Just as it does not protect a person from ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater,’ it also does not protect defamatory conduct.”

Madonna Declares

For her part, Madonna’s declaration admits that she is aware of abuse allegations made by newspapers when she was married to Penn but says that they are outrageous, malicious, reckless, and false. Penn was also arrested by police for alleged violence when the couple was married.

His ex-wife stated, “While we certainly had more than one heated argument in our marriage, Sean has never struck me, ‘tied me up,’ or physically assaulted me, and any report to the contrary is completely outrageous.”

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