LOS ANGELES — Here are a few things we learned from Thursday’s installment of the landmark social-media defamation trial against Courtney Love Cobain. One, the mere mention of Frances Bean’s name still makes her mother cry. Two, the rock doyenne is the sort of person who will entrust her personal affairs to strangers she’s only met online. Three, Love has also allegedly asked one such stranger to commit illegal acts on her behalf.
"I was asked to hire a hacker,” testified Love’s former assistant, Jessica Labrie, who met her boss online. “I was asked to falsify legal documents, use legal letterhead and send out letters pretending to be a lawyer."
It was the second full day of testimony in the defamation case against Love, a suit filed after the singer tweeted an accusation that her former attorney, Rhonda J. Holmes, had been “bought off." Love, who took the stand in black-framed glasses, a gold cardigan, and a tweed skirt, told the jury she’d meant the posting to be sent privately as a direct message. When she realized her mistake, she said, she deleted the tweet only minutes later.
Had she considered tweeting a public retraction, Holmes' attorney Barry Langberg asked? Love seemed exasperated with the question. "It was so long ago,” she said after exhaling deeply. “I don't remember if I rectified it in that moment or not."
Throughout the case, Love has maintained that the allegedly defamatory tweet wasn’t apropos of nothing, but rather a direct response to a question posed by one of her more than 50,000 followers. But the defendant, who wore long dangling earrings, two diamond rings, and a gold necklace with a hanging key charm, couldn’t provide evidence of this for the court. “Do I have any proof from 2010—and millions and millions of Tweets going back and forth? No one does." (Blogger Carmela Kelly, the @fairnewsspears recipient of the infamous tweet, would later testify that she didn't think a specific question instigated the bribery accusation.)
Love also became emotional when her daughter's name came up. At one point, Love says she hadn't heard from Holmes for months, so she emailed the lawyer to try to convince her to keep working with her case for Frances Bean's sake. When asked how important Frances Bean's well-being is to the defendant, her lip began to quiver and she teared up, saying, "It's the most important thing."
The next witness was Jessica Labrie, Love's former assistant, who has purple stripes in her black hair and wore a black sweatshirt with studded shoulders. Labrie, who concurrently has a separate lawsuit pending against the Hole frontwoman, testified that she met her boss online. Based in Vancouver, she not only clarified that the majority of their communication was conducted “virtually” and by phone, but that her duties as Love’s assistant included monitoring Love's hyperactive Twitter feed of approximately 100 updates a day and deleting posts when "she had Tweeted too much bad things."
Labrie testified that ultimately her relationship with Love was terminated over disagreements and accusations launched against Labrie's trustworthiness. "She said I had stolen from her," Labrie told the jurors.
On the stand, Jessica Labrie appeared tense. Love's counsel Matt Bures questioned the witness’s motivation, pointing out that the former assistant tried to sell a book about her experiences working for the rock star, despite a signed confidentiality agreement. But Labrie said she did not feel bound by its terms once "Courtney had gone on Twitter and sassed me and sent me emails with allegations and humiliated me in public."
Attorney Rhonda J. Holmes is still expected to testify in the case.