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The bizarre sex tape feud that drove 50 Cent into bankruptcy

By Svati Kirsten Narula

This post has been corrected.

Rapper 50 Cent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

The move comes three days after a New York jury ordered the rapper to pay $5 million in damages to a woman who sued him for obtaining and sharing a sex tape in which she was prominently featured.

50 Cent—whose legal name is Curtis James Jackson III—had filed a separate bankruptcy petition in May in an attempt to derail the lawsuit. His lawyers contended that if his boxing promotion company was bankrupt, and he was the primary owner, then he was protected from lawsuits under bankruptcy law. This reasoning did not fly with a judge and the sex tape case proceeded to trial.

Documents submitted to a Connecticut court for the Ch. 11 bankruptcy filing reported both assets and liabilities  in the range of $10 million to $50 million. Jackson’s estimated net worth—due mostly to a famous Vitamin Water sponsorship deal that netted him half a billion dollars when the company was sold to Coca-Cola—is far higher at $155 million, according to Forbes.

His latest bankruptcy filing may be a gambit to block further payouts  in the sex tape lawsuit. The jury is reportedly set to deliberate on awarding additional damages to Lastonia Leviston, his adversary in court, beyond the $5 million already ordered.

The sex tape case dates back to 2009, when 50 Cent allegedly obtained the tape as part of his feud with rapper Rick Ross, who was not featured in the tape but has a daughter with Leviston. According to her lawsuit, as reported by the AP, 50 Cent “added himself as a crude commentator” on the video and posted it online.

The feud with Ross was largely seen as an attempt to boost sales of 50 Cent’s records. The rapper’s latest albums have sold poorly and he has even developed a sideline business as a life coach, according to GQ. ”Conflict is what he knows,” the magazine wrote. “No one in rap has used it more to his advantage.”

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Vitamin Water was sold to Pepsi; in fact it was sold to Coca-Cola.