Legal Drama

Dencia Takes a Page from Diddy and Ray J, Allegedly Fights at the 2011 Headies Awards- #Criminal Battery

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Folks I promised to catch up with all the “nonsense and rubbish” i.e. bad behavior our industry insiders and stars allegedly exhibited at the just completed Headies 2011. I think I am almost caught up so I can discuss the D’banj and Mo’Hits Kelly Hansome case. Mennnnh some serious mess on that case. In any event, in this case, it was supposed to be an awards show but instead, Nigeria Entertainment Today reports Dencia, the artist whose claim of being Nigerian is being challenged, got involved in an altercation in which she fought another attendee at the event. Is this Dencia week? I am already getting fatigued. I need something new. Dencia, abeg, enough already. Excerpt from NET follows:

“The 2011 edition of The Headies has come and gone but there’s so much happenstances that make It difficult to forget the October 22 event in a hurry.

Apart from Mo’Hits‘ singer Dr. SID’s performance flop and Rita Dominic’s obvious lackluster performance as host, a rumble between two hitherto relatively unknown ladies also went down.

Who you might ask? Well, Nigerian Entertainment Today has gathered that R&B newbie Dencia (real name Reprudencia Sonkey) and a certain Liz Garvy got into a ‘cat fight’ just outside the Expo Hall at the Eko Hotels and Suites.

Eye witnesses say Liz Garvy attacked Dencia as she made her way to restroom, yanking her hair which she practically pulled off.

Sources suggest the fight between Dencia and Miss Garvy is the outcome of a relationship gone bad. Dencia allegedly accused her former friend of stealing her property worth $20,000 from her house in Woodland Hills, California back in 2010. Liz, we’re told, had reportedly squatted in Dencia’s place to recover from a liposuction surgery.

All hell broke loose when Dencia recognized a friend of Garvy, Blossom Nyepon in a picture rocking her top. She went straight to Twitter, to call out Blossom (@bnyepon) who obviously embarrassed, in return gave Garvy a piece of her mind. ‘@LizzyGavy what you did over at her house has nothing to do with me am now been called a thief on twitter because of you @reprudencia’, @bnyepon tweeted. . .” – NET has the full story.

(Interrupting normal legal talk to play Valentine Brooke’s Girl Fight)

As you all know or should know by now, I am more interested in the legal issues raised when legal drama like this hits mainstream. Often, if you fight in Nigeria or beat the crap out of someone aka Olisa Adibua style, you get  a pass.

You can bust someone’s lips as Adibua did and you still don’t get the cops involved. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to know what the assault and battery laws are in Nigeria. Once we do so, I’ll give you all a quick contrast of battery law(s) in California where I also practice criminal defense work.

Folks, Dencia has a right to a defense of self. If she was indeed attacked as the story reads, then she can definitely defend herself under Nigerian criminal statutes and of course deliver the best beat down she can possibly give to the girl who attacked her. The beat down Dencia delivers cannot and should not cause death or grievous bodily injury. It has to match what was delivered to her by the aggressor. However, if the aggressor uses force that can be strong to cause grievous bodily injury or God forbid, even kill Dencia, then under Nigerian Criminal statues, Dencia can use such force that would cause grievous bodily injury or death in defending herself.

TIP: If a fight can be avoided, walk away. I know it is easier said than done but try hard to just shake it off and walk away. With the advent of blogs,twitter and facebook, the person who attacks you will have to deal with public opinion and if it is a fellow colleague, it is a very bad look that can hurt his/her bottom line. So, do your best to keep it moving.


I have discussed these statutes in the past. Unlike the US criminal laws that distinguishes an assault from battery, Nigeria’s criminal code lumps battery with assault. In this instance, Nigerian Criminal Code Act Part V Chapter 25 section 284-286 seem to govern the Dencia altercation. The relevant parts provide:

“284. A person is not criminally responsible for an assault committed upon a person who gives him provocation for the assault, if he is in fact deprived by the provocation of the power of self-control, and acts upon it on the sudden and before there is time for his passion to cool; provided that the force used is not disproportionate to the provocation, and is not intended, and is not such as is likely, to cause death or grievous harm.

Whether any particular act or insult is such as to be likely to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control and to induce him to assault the person by-whom the act or insult is done or offered, and whether, in any particular case, the person provoked was actually deprived by the provocation of the power of self-control, and whether any force used is or is not disproportionate to the provocation, are questions of fact.

285. It is lawful for any person to use such force as is reasonably necessary to prevent the repetition of an act or insult of such a nature as to be provocation to him for an assault:

Provided that the force used is not intended and is not such as is likely, to cause death or grievous harm.

286. When a person is unlawfully assaulted, and has not provoked the assault, it is lawful for him to use such force to the assailant as is reasonably necessary to make effectual defence against the assault:

Provided that the force used is not intended, and is not such as is likely, to cause death or grievous harm.

If the nature of the assault is such as to cause reasonable apprehension of death or grievous harm, and the person using force by way of defence believes, on reasonable grounds, that he cannot otherwise preserve the person defended from death or grievous harm, it is lawful for him to use any such force to the assailant as is necessary for defence, even though such force may cause death or grievous harm.”


Ray J and Diddy are some of the “agbaya” celebrities that recently instigated fights against other individuals. What does US criminal law and specifically California law say about battery against another person, this includes Domestic Violence which a lot of our young Nigerians stateside are now being on the hook for?

Read about California’s criminal statutes with a repost from my law firm’s blog website:

When you punch, hit, bite, scratch, spit, throw an object, water, drink etc. at a person, you have committed battery. Essentially, battery is the illegal use of force on another person which causes bodily injury or is deemed an harmful/offensive contact.

There are important elements that the Prosecutor (DA) will have to prove in a battery case to get a conviction against you.

Intent: You could INTEND to commit battery or it could be un-intentional aka criminal negligence.

Indirect Application of Force: Remember I said you could throw an object or substance i.e. water or drink at someone one and that could still constitute as battery? So, your takeaway is that you need not directly use force against someone to get battery.

Defenses: If you are in California where I practice, you would be charged with California Penal Code section242.

What are your defenses should you knock on the door of a firm like mine that also does criminal defense work?

Typically, when criminal defense attorneys take on your matter, they will listen to you to ascertain what defenses there might be, if any, applicable to your actions.

Defenses include:

  • It was an accident
  • He/she consented
  • I was trying to help someone that was getting beat up
  • I am a parent and I have a right to discipline my child

What impact will  a conviction of battery have on you?

  • Very tough to gain employment
  • Sometimes tough to gain housing, and overall not good on your record.

What Kind of Time Are We looking At?

  • Typically 6months in your county’s jail
  • Fines
  • Anger management
  • Informal probation, typically.

Does the DA limit the charges to only battery (242)

Nope! If you cause serious bodily injury, then in California, expect to see a charge of California Penal Code (CPC) 243(d) for aggravated battery and if the object you used could or caused great bodily injury, expect to see CPC 245(a)(1) charge of assault with a deadly weapon most likely to cause great bodily injury. Both sections of the code are usually charged as felonies with steeper implications.


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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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