Former President Donald Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba referred to New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — who has been investigating her client for years for evidence of suspected tax offenses — as a “Black bitch,” according to a lawsuit filed by Habba’s ex-legal assistant.
The ex-legal assistant, Na’Syia Drayton, says that she was the only Black woman whom Habba employed and is now suing her on various bias claims, including harassment and discrimination based on race, harassment and discrimination based on gender, constructive discharge, constructive discharge, and unlawful retaliation. Drayton also alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In the lawsuit, Drayton paints a portrait of an office culture where Habba and her partner loudly sing rap lyrics with racial slurs and Habba allegedly makes casual racist and antisemitic remarks. Drayton demands a jury trial and wants unspecified punitive damages.
The Daily Beast first reported the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in Superior Court of New Jersey, where Habba’s practice is based.
“Pump Themselves Up”
According to the lawsuit, Drayton worked for Habba between 2017 and 2019 at the Sandelands Eyet in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Habba served as the firm’s managing partner. Drayton says that she continued working for Habba between November 2021 and June 2022 at the Trump attorney’s firm Habba Madaio & Associates LLP.
The trouble started, according to Drayton’s complaint, during the second phase of her employment. Drayton describes the first couple of months inside the office of Habba Madaio & Associates as a “honeymoon phase,” but she says that came to an abrupt halt as the firm’s named partners — Habba and Michael Madaio, who is a co-defendant — chose to play and “loudly sing and repeat” rap music with sexually charged lyrics peppered with racial slurs.
Habba and Madaio “seemed to particularly enjoy listening to, and rapping along with what is generally perceived and classified as gangster and hip-hop music, to energize, motivate and otherwise ‘pump themselves up’ prior to making court appearances,” according to the lawsuit.
As the firm’s only Black employee, Drayton says, she felt “shocked, embarrassed and humiliated.”
According to the lawsuit, the songs they played and sang included “Ruff Ryders Anthem” by DMX, “Niggas in Paris” by Kanye West and Jay Z, “Rich Ass Fuck” by Lil Wayne and “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne.
“In some of the songs played and sung by the defendants that day, the word ‘n***r’ (and its variations) was used so many times that Plaintiff Na’Syia Drayton was unable to keep count,” the lawsuit says, with the uncensored version of the slur in the lawsuit. “The songs similarly contained highly sexual content and portrayed women as mere objects of male sexual gratification.”
Habba, who represents Trump in a variety of lawsuits, filed her first notice of appearance in the case involving the New York attorney general’s investigation on Jan. 4 of this year. The lawsuit suggests that her anger toward James flared within months.
In April 2022, Drayton claims that Habba lost a legal battle against James’s office and then raged in the office: “I HATE THAT BLACK BITCH!”
The outburst is emphasized in block capital letters and boldface text in the lawsuit.
“You People Like Fried Chicken”
Though the complaint doesn’t identify the defeat that allegedly provoked the comment, it asserts that it was a loss before the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. That court did not issue a ruling against Trump in April 2022.
In a lower court that month, however, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron found Trump in contempt and imposed a $10,000 per day fine for failing to comply with James’s subpoena. Habba did not hide her indignation toward the judge that day, telling reporters outside the courtroom that the ruling was “inappropriate” and the fine was “crazy.” She later accused the judge of turning the proceedings into a “public spectacle.” Trump and Habba ultimately resolved the matter by paying a $110,000 fine and supplying detailed affidavits relevant to their searches for the subpoenaed information.
The Court of Appeals ruled against Trump in his fight to avoid testifying for a deposition months later in June.
Whatever sparked the alleged remarks, Drayton claims it caused her to suffer “panic attacks.” The next month, Drayton says, Habba threatened her with her job in a May 2022 meeting.
“During the meeting, defendant Alina Habba told plaintiff Na’Syia Drayton that she sensed that plaintiff seemed unhappy, was isolating herself and had withdrawn from the team,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Alina Habba shared that she initially believed that plaintiff Na’Syia Drayton would be a ‘good fit’ for the office, but based on plaintiff’s recently changed demeanor, she was beginning to think that she had made a mistake in recruiting her. Defendant Alina Habba even indicated that if things did not improve, she reluctantly would have to let plaintiff Na’Syia Drayton go.”
That is when Drayton says that she sent Habba an email with the subject line “Workplace environment feeling uncomfortable,” which refers to Habba’s alleged remark about James and the rap music played in the office. The email also claims that Habba recommended at a staff luncheon that Drayton order a chicken meal because “you people like fried chicken.”
After Habba received the email, Drayton says, the Trump lawyer exploded that she could not be racist because “I am a fucking minority myself” and “I’m not White.”
“I used to be bullied because I am Arab,” Habba said, according to the lawsuit.
In a footnote, Drayton took umbrage at Habba allegedly telling her she was “trying to be offended.”
Drayton says she “not only found this comment to be patently offensive, but felt that her supervisor was embracing pejorative racial stereotyping, namely that African Americans are hyper-sensitive, lazy opportunists who sought out any opportunity to file frivolous lawsuits in order to avoid work.”
According to the lawsuit, Drayton did not feel comfortable taking the matter to the firm’s human resources manager Randee Ingram, who is not named as a defendant. Drayton claims that was because Ingram took no corrective action after Habba openly called a fellow attorney a “cheap Jew.”
In addition to her alleged private remarks quoted in the lawsuit, Habba has attacked James on the right-wing channel Newsmax as “unhinged” and “obsessed” with the former president. Trump has attacked James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), who are both Black and investigating him, as “racists.” Habba did not respond to Law&Crime’s email requesting comment.
Read the lawsuit here:
(Screenshot via YouTube)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]