LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge will determine whether Terrence Howard can overturn a divorce settlement with his second wife because of his claims she extorted him to sign the agreement by threatening to leak private information.
The ruling expected Monday will not end legal fighting between Howard and his ex-wife Michelle Ghent but a significant amount of money is at stake. The pair’s divorce settlement entitles Ghent to a share of Howard’s earnings, including from his starring role on the hit television series “Empire.” The second season of the show debuts this fall.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Trent Lewis convened a four-day hearing recently to hear testimony about Howard’s claims. The judge has not signaled how he will rule.
If he rules in Ghent’s favor, Lewis will convene another hearing to determine how much Howard owes.
Testimony during the hearing revealed numerous private details about the actor, including his admission that he had cheated on Ghent during their engagement, that he kept years of phone sex recordings with multiple women, and that he has already divorced his third wife.
Lewis also heard a 2011 call in which Ghent berated Howard and threatened to sell his private information if he didn’t pay her money by the end of the day. Howard’s accountant sent Ghent $40,000 in response to the call, which he called “hush money.”
The actor called it “blood money.” He told Lewis that leaking the information at the time would have ended his acting career.
Howard has accused Ghent of blackmailing him over private audio and video of him dancing naked in a bathroom to get him to sign the divorce settlement. The pair was married for a year before Ghent filed for divorce in January 2011.
Ghent’s lawyers have said she denied extorting the actor in a deposition. She was not allowed to testify at a recent hearing because her attorneys did not file a sworn declaration from her before the proceedings began.
Ghent has accused Howard of abusing her on multiple occasions and has an active restraining order against the actor.
Howard, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his starring role in 2005’s “Hustle & Flow,” is not required to attend the hearing.
The actor’s career has resurged since the debut of “Empire,” a hit series for Fox that had steadily improved ratings each week in its first season. The show’s second season, set to debut on Sept. 23, is highly anticipated.
Work on the show’s second season continues. Howard spent four days in court during a recent hearing, testifying for portions of three of those days. His absence didn’t impact the show’s shooting schedule.
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