Ter­rence Howard tear­fully de­scribes how ex-wife vowed to black­mail him

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY AN­THONY MCCART­NEY

Ter­rence Howard tear­fully told a judge Fri­day that his ex-wife re­peat­edly threat­ened to leak dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about him to get him to sign a di­vorce set­tle­ment in 2012.

The Os­car- nom­i­nated ac­tor broke down while dis­cussing the threats dur­ing a hear­ing in which he is try­ing to over­turn the set­tle­ment agree­ment on grounds he signed it un­der duress. Howard said he was con­cerned his ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, would leak de­tails about his sex life, and au­dio and video record­ings of him.

Howard said the re­lease of such in­for­ma­tion in 2012 would have ended his ca­reer. The 46-yearold ac­tor now stars on the hit Fox se­ries "Em­pire."

"I was ter­ri­fied of her re­leas­ing the pri­vate tapes," Howard said, ex­plain­ing that the video showed him in "in­ti­mate set­tings."

Howard again lost his com­po­sure dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion by Ghent's at­tor­ney, who ques­tioned the ac­tor about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions. Howard re­quested a court re­cess af­ter be­ing ques­tioned about sev­eral al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­lence to­ward women.

With a photo of a Ghent with a black eye dis­played on a screen in the court­room, Howard ac­knowl­edged that he had struck his first wife out of anger. But he de­nied he had abused Ghent, say­ing any at­tacks on her were self-de­fense.

The ac­tor said he mar­ried Ghent in 2010 out of love but was al­ready aware that she had taken pri­vate au­dio record­ings he had made and down­loaded them to her com­puter. He tes­ti­fied that she threat­ened to re­lease them dur­ing their en­gage­ment, dur­ing which he ad­mit­ted he was un­faith­ful to her with mul­ti­ple women.

Ghent's at­tor­ney, Sai'id Vak­ili, point­edly ques­tioned Howard about why he would re­main with Ghent de­spite her al­leged black- mail scheme.

"I loved her," Howard said. "I thought she had per­haps made the threats out of anger."

In a de­po­si­tion, Ghent de­nied she tried to black­mail Howard, her at­tor­neys have said. She has ac­cused Howard of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sev­eral times and has an ac­tive re­strain­ing or­der against him.

Howard said he had hoped to get the record­ings back from Ghent dur­ing their mar­riage but was un­suc­cessfu l. Among the items he said Ghent had ob­tained were a record­ing of Howard's last con­ver­sa­tion with his mother, phone sex con­ver­sa­tions with other women, and record­ings of songs he had writ­ten.

None of those ma­te­ri­als have been played in court, but a key piece of ev­i­dence has been a 2011 record­ing of Ghent be­rat­ing Howard and threat­en­ing to re­lease em­bar­rass­ing ma­te­rial about him.

'Blood money'

Howard said he paid Ghent US$40,000 af­ter she threat­ened to re­lease ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing a video of him naked and danc­ing in the bath­room. Asked by his at­tor­ney whether he con­sid­ered the pay­ment hush money, Howard re­sponded, "I con­sider it blood money."

The ac­tor said the threats con­tin­ued while their di­vorce set­tle­ment was be­ing fi­nal­ized.

He said he was afraid Ghent would "re­lease the video and au­dio of me in a very pri­vate and in­ti­mate place and I would never be able to work again in this busi­ness."

In the 2011 con­ver­sa­tion, Ghent is heard telling Howard, "I will (ex­ple­tive) bury you deep within the ground."

She said she had video of Howard singing naked in the bath­room and could sell it for US$2 mil­lion. She also told the ac­tor that she had called the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice to re­port im­proper de­duc­tions.

Howard's tes­ti­mony will con­clude Mon­day. Su­pe­rior Court Judge Thomas Trent Lewis told at­tor­neys Ghent would not be al­lowed to tes­tify be­cause her lawyers hadn't sub­mit­ted a sworn dec­la­ra­tion from her.

AP

Ac­tor Ter­rence Howard walks into a Los An­ge­les court for a hear­ing in which the “Em­pire” star is at­tempt­ing to over­turn a 2012 di­vorce set­tle­ment on the grounds his ex-wife ex­torted him, Thurs­day, Aug. 13.

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