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Exes Damon Gillespie and Grace Aki sue each other over domestic violence allegations

A made-for-TV romance between an actor and his YouTube star spouse has devolved into a legal duel — over her claims that he was violent. TV actor and hip-hop dancer Damon Gillespie and actress and YouTuber Grace Aki met while working in musical theater in 2014, bonding over their love of Broadway and show tunes. The pair, whose engagement was reported by People Magazine, married in October 2018, but by last summer, the music was over, according to court papers. Now the two have traded lawsuits against each other. A month before their July 2021 split was official, Aki went on her podcast, “Tell Me on a Sunday,” for an episode about domestic violence, describing her own experience with abuse and claiming Gillespie physically abused and threatened her. She referred to the actor not by name, but only as her “husband,” calling him a “monster, abusive, narcissistic, arrogant, entitled asshole,” legal papers show. Gillespie, 28, responded by filing a September lawsuit against his ex-wife in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming her allegations had damaged his reputation and cost him work. Gillespie, who starred in the 2018 NBC TV drama, “Rise,” has also appeared on “Inside Amy Schumer” and had a role in Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things.” Gillespie’s true nature didn’t become clear to Aki until 2019, she said in her own Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Friday. It was not until 2019 that she “began to realize that the man she married had concealed vicious personality traits from her,” Aki said in her own Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against him, filed Friday. Gillespie verbally harassed, pushed and shoved her, and at one point, abandoned her alone in a foreign country, Aki alleged in the legal papers. She claims he left their home early in the pandemic, returning without explanation months later. She locked herself in a bedroom to get away from him, according to the suit, and put out a cry for help, telling friends via Instagram that she feared for her safety. Gillespie allegedly saw her messages and became enraged, forcing her door open so hard it made a hole in the wall, then pulling her out of bed by her leg and threatened her, Aki charged in the litigation. Gillespie’s lawsuit is just a continuation of his abuse, Aki alleges. There’s even a legal term for it: a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, according to Aki’s lawyer, Valdi Licul. The intent of a so-called SLAPP lawsuit is not to score a legal victory, but rather to intimidate and silence critics. “His suit is baseless,” Aki’s Valdi Licul said. “He wants to bring a lawsuit to shut her up.” In his lawsuit, Gillespie denied ever being violent toward Aki, but said the damage to his career has been done. He said his publicist and agent fired him as a result of the bad publicity he got from her podcast and that his career has suffered. He said he’s also been threatened by strangers on social media. A lawyer for Gillespie declined comment. “It is my universal practice that I do not try my cases in the press,” Gillespie’s attorney Richard Altman told The Post. “Everything I have to say is in the court papers. Neither I nor my client will have any comment.” Additional reporting by Kathianne Boniello

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