Lady Gaga emerged victorious Monday in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the woman who returned the pop star’s stolen French bulldogs in 2021 and later sued for the $500,000 reward — plus $1.5 million in further damages — even though she was convicted of knowingly receiving the stolen pets after dognappers nearly killed the singer’s dog walker.
A Los Angeles judge ruled that Jennifer McBride, 53, failed to remedy her lawsuit with an updated complaint filed two weeks after the court dismissed her original complaint in July on the grounds that McBride appeared to be trying to “benefit from her admitted wrongdoing.”
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Judge Holly J. Fujie issued her final decision during a morning hearing lasting less than 10 minutes. She ruled that McBride had “unclean hands” when she tried to collect the $500,000 reward and was later prosecuted. Despite McBride’s argument that the reward was offered with a promise of “no questions asked,” Judge Fujie ruled that “a party to a contract who acts wrongfully in entering or performing the contract is not entitled to thereafter benefit from their wrongdoing by seeking to enforce the contract.”
Unlike in her decision in July, the judge said McBride won’t be allowed to try again with another revised complaint because “there exists no reasonable possibility that the defect can be cured by amendment.”
Ryan Fischer, the dog walker who was strangled, beaten, shot in the chest and left for dead in the attack, praised the judge’s decision in a statement to Rolling Stone. “As the victim of this violent attack who went into severe depression and financial debt because of it, I’ve had to work very hard physically and emotionally the past two years to rebuild my life and finally be able to care for and train dogs again. Because of this, it was difficult to know that someone associated with and prosecuted in the crime would try and profit from it – especially in a court of law. I am grateful Judge Holly J. Fujie found the suit insufficient and hope all the cases regarding this crime are finally resolved,” Fischer said.
McBride, now serving two years of felony probation after pleading “no contest” to receiving the stolen dogs, claimed in her amended complaint that she was “in no way involved in the theft of Lady Gaga’s bulldogs and had no knowledge of said theft or its planning before its occurrence.” She also argued that she had no idea the dogs were stolen and only “took possession of [Gaga’s] bulldogs for the specific purpose of ensuring their protection and safely returning them.” But the judge sided with Gaga’s team after they argued McBride’s lawsuit “makes no sense.”
In court filings, Gaga’s lawyers pointed to McBride’s admission in her own paperwork that she learned about the $500,000 “no questions asked” reward from news articles published by TMZ, Variety, CNN, and Today on Feb. 25, 2021, the day after the dogs were stolen during the near-fatal assault on a street in Hollywood, California.
“All of them led with the fact that [Gaga’s] dogs had been stolen,” the musician’s lawyers said of the articles.
“Plaintiff alleges in the [first amended complaint] that she was ‘in no way involved’ in the theft of [Lady Gaga’s] dogs and ‘had no knowledge of said theft or its planning before its occurrence.’ Notably, she never alleges that she was unaware that the bulldogs had been stolen after they were stolen or at the time that she received them,” the judge wrote in her final ruling.
McBride returned the dogs to an LAPD station on Feb. 26, 2021, claiming she found them tied to a pole. According to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, surveillance footage from the area where McBride said she found the dogs showed her “walking up and down both sides of the street looking around in both directions” while “holding a cell phone in each hand.” The dogs were then seen being dropped off by a person driving a rented Jeep Gladiator with a clearly visible license plate that traced back to a woman who spoke with McBride’s co-defendant, Harold White, multiple times on the day after the dognapping and attempted murder. White, 43, is the father of convicted dognapper Jaylin White, 22.
A subsequent check of White’s social media accounts turned up evidence he and McBride knew each other before the dognapping. They attempting at least one video call over Facebook in late 2020, prosecutors said.
“Merry Christmas,” McBride allegedly wrote to Harold White over Facebook on Dec. 25, 2020.
“Merry xmas baby,” he purportedly responded.
“Have a good day with ur family. I’m glad 2. U looking happier,” she replied, according to records obtained through a search warrant, prosecutors said.
And whereas McBride focused her $2 million lawsuit on claims Gaga’s team offered the $500,000 reward with a promise of “no questions asked,” the musician’s lawyers pointed out Gaga didn’t use that phrase in her personal Twitter posts.
“My beloved dogs Koji and Gustav were taken in Hollywood two nights ago. My heart is sick and I am praying my family will be whole again with an act of kindness. I will pay $500,000 for their safe return. Email KojiandGustav@gmail.com to contact us,” Gaga tweeted Feb. 26, 2021. “If you bought or found them unknowingly, the reward is the same. I continue to love you Ryan Fischer, you risked your life to fight for our family. You’re forever a hero.”
When the triggerman in the dognapping was sentenced to 21 years in prison last December, Fischer delivered a harrowing statement to the court.
“You shot me and left me to die, and both of our lives have changed forever,” Fischer said, addressing James Howard Jackson, 21, who pleaded no contest to attempted murder with great bodily injury.
Fischer said he suffered “lung collapse after lung collapse,” ongoing physical therapy, rising debt, and the “loss of career, friendships, (and) sense of self.” Still, he showed compassion toward his assailant.
“I do forgive you and everyone involved with the attack. You completely altered my life, and I know I can’t completely move on from the night you shot me until I said those words to you,” Fischer said before also thanking Jackson for not harming or disposing of the dogs during the “media storm” that followed their abduction. “They were returned and returned to their mom. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if they died.”
In dramatic testimony during a secret grand jury proceeding in the case, Fischer said he was “confused at first” when the dognappers ambushed him during a walk and demanded the three pets: Asia, Gustav, and Koji. “They pointed down to the dogs, that they wanted the dogs, and I said, ‘No.’ And I started to scream for help and tried to fight back,” Fischer testified, according to a transcript previously obtained by Rolling Stone.
He said the man with the gun “threw” him into a concrete embankment and “began to choke me.” He hit the man with a bottle of champagne purchased at a nearby store, broke free, and tried to lunge for Koji.
“The dog screamed at me, and I reached for him, and then the guy, the man with the gun shot me as I was reaching,” Fischer testified, saying he collapsed on the ground as his assailants sped away.
“I immediately tried to call for help but realized I was bleeding out of my lung and that I was losing more and more air quickly,” Fischer testified.
Echoing what he told Rolling Stone in his first major interview after the near-death attack, Fischer said the bullet ripped through his upper-right torso, “right next to my brachial plexus and the collar bone area,” before it exited out his back under his shoulder blade. “It went through my lung because I was reaching forward, trying to grab Koji,” he said.
The third convicted dognapper, Lafayette Whaley, 29, is serving a six-year sentence for his role in the violent attack. Harold White is serving a 16-month sentence after his sentencing in August.
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