W.Va. State sued over cancelled concert

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 22, 2011

CHARLESTON – A concert promoter alleges he was dissed by a local university when it cancelled a scheduled performance by a well-known hip-hop artist.

West Virginia State University is named as a co-defendant in a four-count breach of contract suit filed by Don Staples. In his complaint filed Feb. 8 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Staples, 59, of South Charleston, alleges he lost over $300,000 when WVSU officials pulled the plug on a scheduled concert by Jay Wayne Jenkins aka "Jeezy" on WVSU's campus last year.

The West Virginia Board of Education and WVSU President Hazo W. Carter Jr. are named as co-defendants in the suit.

According to his suit, Staples worked with Michael Hawkins, a WVSU student, in March to promote a concert at State the following month. No details are given about the concert except it "was a success with all parties receiving proceeds and benefits."

On May 1, the day after the concert, Staples says Hawkins verbally agreed to work with him again in promoting another concert later in the year. The second concert would take place on campus at Lakin Field.

The agreement called for ticket to be pre-sold through Ticketmaster, and the day of the event. As an "image-enhancing" enticement, WVSU would receive 500 discounted tickets.

According to Staples, someone other than Hawkins contracted with PresSound Entertainment in Institute "to provide sound and other services for the concert." Also, WVSU "contracted with various police agencies to provide security for the concert."

Both happened on unspecified dates.

Sometime thereafter, Staples maintains he contracted with Jeezy to headline the upcoming concert. On an unspecified date, he paid Jeezy a $35,000 non-refundable down payment to perform at WVSU.

A native of Columba, S.C., Jeezy, 33, made his professional debut as a rapper in 2001 with his independently produced album "Thugging Under the Influence." Since then, he has released eight other albums either solo or in collaboration with the groups Boys in da Hood and United Streets Dopeboyz of America.

In 2008, his collaboration with Usher in "Love this Club" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to being nominated for three Grammys in the last three years for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, Jeezy, along with Rihanna, won Black Entertainment Television's 2010 Viewer's Choice award, and in 2008 BET's 2008 Hip-Hop Award for Best Hip-Hop Collabo with DJ Khaled, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Big Boi, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe, Birdman and Rick Ross.

Later on Aug. 25, Staples alleges he received a call from Hawkins saying the concert was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation was "due to abject fear by the University administration that it could not control its own students."

Despite the cancellation, Staples went forward with bringing Jeezy to West Virginia for a concert, but in Morgantown on Sept. 18. He alleges he incurred costs of over $100,000 in reorganizing the event, and only made $8,700 in ticket sales.

In addition to breach of contract, Staples makes claims against the defendants for willful and intentional injury, negligence and malicious injury. He alleges he incurred not only a direct monetary loss of $310,000 due to their actions, but also suffered "indignity, embarrassment, aggravation, inconvenience, annoyance, mental anguish, lost wages [and] damage to [his] professional reputation."

Staples seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs. He is represented by Charleston attorneys Toby J. Buel Jr., and Michael O. Callaghan and Richard F. Neely with the law firm Neely and Callaghan.

The case is assigned to Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 11-C-211

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