Luther Campbell Talks Defamation Suit Against Ex-Miami Booster Nevin Shapiro

Ex-UM booster's attorney counters Miami-Dade's 'predominately Hispanic, conservative Republicans' won't vote for Uncle Luke, anyway

Convicted Ponzi schemer and former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro is broke and behind bars, but rapper Luther Campbell still wants a piece of him.

"When you claim that you're 'Little Luke' and you're a Ponzi schemer and the reason why you claim you're 'Little Luke' [is] you're saying I did something illegal...I have a real serious problem with that," Campbell told NBCMiami exclusively after coaching at Northwestern Senior High School's football practice on Wednesday.

The former 2 Live Crew hype man and Miami-Dade mayoral candidate filed a defamation lawsuit against Shapiro Tuesday, claiming he was slandered by Shapiro in a Yahoo! Sports investigative report published in August that detailed improper benefits Shapiro allegedly gave to UM players.

In the article, Shapiro claimed he gave players lavish gifts and threw wild bashes for them in the same way Campbell allegedly did in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going,” Shapiro said. “His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke,’ and I became ‘Little Luke.’"

On Wednesday,  Campbell said that Shapiro's claim he paid for prostitutes for and trips to strip clubs with football players should earn him even more time in prison.

"These are impressionable kids," Campbell said. "Some of these kids were 16 years old....If you claim you took kids on these trips with prostitutes and...strip clubs, these are kids that are under 18 years old. That's [a] pedophile. You just don't do those types of things."

Campbell again denied having 'taken care of' Miami football players in the past.

"I never paid any players off," he said. "There...were never any charges brought against the University of Miami for that...Due process happened. The NCAA sent their investigators down, they did their thorough investigation of the case 21 years ago. So at that period of time it should have been a dead issue.

"So him claiming he's 'Little Luke' -- you know, if you're 'Little Luke, you're out here working with kids on a daily basis, you have youth programs like myself. Do it that way. Don't do it in a way and then use me for something you're doing wrong. That's his wrongdoing."

Maria Elena Perez, Shapiro's attorney, said in a statement late Wednesday night that it was players who nicknamed Shapiro 'Little Luke,' and not the other way around.

"The first defense to an allegation of defamation is the truth," she said. "That is, if the alleged defamatory statement is true, then it cannot be considered a defamatory statement."

"This is black letter defamation 101. It couldn’t be more simple," Campbell's attorney, Michael Carney said. "What we have here is Mr. Campbell is a 50-year-old guy...He has an edgy entertainment brand for sure...but his business and the proceeds thereof have all been legal."

Campbell's lawsuit alleges that Shapiro, who is currently serving 20 years in a federal prison for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, was "motivated by spite, ill-will and revenge" in making the comments about Campbell and UM.

"These statements were made by [Shapiro] maliciously as part of a wide ranging and angry attack by [Shapiro] occasioned by his own fallen circumstances; he has stated he is motivated by bitterness and a desire to inflict pain on all involved," the lawsuit says.

Carney said Campbell has aspirations to seek political office in the future and he wants to remain certified to coach high school athletics.

"When you impugn somebody’s fitness to do things required to their job, that’s defamation per se," Carney said. "It's harmful."

But Perez argued in her statement that Campbell is not likely to ever be elected in Miami-Dade County.

"Although I believe Mr. Campbell's efforts of establishing a youth sports league, as well as help for battered women is commendable, unfortunately, I do not think Mr. Campbell will ever get enough support in Miami-Dade County to pass his proposed stripper tax...It is important to note that Miami-Dade County is made up of predominantly Hispanic, conservative Republicans that are not
likely to vote a former rapper who sang lyrics like 'me so horny' into office."

An individual NCAA investigation into current players alleged to have received benefits suspended eight current Hurricanes for one to five games. The NCAA has yet to rule on expected sanctions against the football program at large.

The lawsuit seeks over $15,000 in damages, but Campbell will likely have to wait in line if the suit is successful. Bankruptcy trustees are still trying to recover money from Shapiro to pay back Ponzi scheme victims.

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