NEW YORK (AP) — Ashanti faced a fan accused of stalking and harassing her family for years, telling him and a jury Monday that she was repulsed and frightened to learn he'd been tweeting her X-rated messages and posed for a photo with her sister despite a no-contact order.
In a strange courtroom scene that found the Grammy-winning R&B singer being questioned by accused stalker Devar Hurd — who's representing himself — she recounted being at her mother's July 2013 birthday dinner as she read raunchy, personal tweets from an account she had recently realized was Hurd's.
"To be at a family event with my mom and to have a person coming at you so derogatory, it was disgusting," Ashanti said, briefly wiping at an eye. Hurd had done jail time after being convicted in 2009 of barraging Ashanti's mother with lewd text messages about her multiplatinum-selling daughter.
"I didn't know what he was capable of," added Ashanti, who said she'd hired extra security guards after realizing Hurd was contacting the family again. "I know sometimes when a person gets rejected, that emotion turns into, you know, dangerous feelings and dangerous actions, and I didn't want it to go to a new level, so I was really, really scared."
Hurd, a would-be rapper, sometime model, and fitness trainer, has argued that he never meant to harm the family. He suggested during his discursive questioning of Ashanti that some of his tweets were just comments on her career or her own Twitter messages, and she acknowledged that she didn't remember whether she'd even seen some of them when he first sent them.
Regardless, "you violated the order of protection," Ashanti told Hurd during her 50 minutes on the witness stand. She said it was the first time she'd seen him in person.
"It was horrible," she said as she left court.
Hurd spent about two years in jail on his initial stalking and aggravated harassment conviction, and he was ordered not to contact Ashanti, her sister or her parents until 2020. He now faces similar charges again.
After his release, he sent Ashanti over 100 sometimes lewd tweets in less than a year from accounts that obscured his identity, and he turned up at events organized by her younger sister, Kenashia Douglas, prosecutors said. The sisters said they realized who Hurd and his Twitter handles were only after a fan alerted them.
Hurd argues that he did no harm to Douglas and that Ashanti could have blocked his tweets if they upset her. As one of the singer's over 1.7 million Twitter followers, he was just one adult communicating to another about "consensual sex, lovemaking and emotional heartbreak," he said in an opening statement Monday.
She said that she didn't initially block his tweets because she didn't realize the convicted stalker was sending them and that she didn't block them later on advice from law enforcement officials.
After Hurd's earlier conviction, he was diagnosed as having a delusional disorder, according to his trial judge at the time.
Ashanti, 34, got her first record deal at age 14 and went on to release hits including "Foolish" and "Only U." She also has acted in such films as "Coach Carter" and "John Tucker Must Die," as well as in a 2009 off-Broadway revival of "The Wiz." This year she released two albums, "Braveheart" and "A Wonderful Christmas with Ashanti," an expansion of an earlier recording.
Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz.