The granddaughter of Nina Simone, “the high priestess of soul,” said Simone’s family lost control of the legendary singer’s estate because Vice President Kamala Harris targeted them as attorney general of California.
RéAnna Simone Kelly tweeted on Saturday that Harris “bullied my mother in court” to the point that “my mom almost killed herself from the depression.” Kelly said that Harris targeted the family with allegations of fraud and threats of imprisonment to eventually strip the family of the rights to Simone’s estate.
“[The estate] was taken away from us & given to white people. Our family name was DRAGGED in the media. We get NO royalties, nothing. Wanna hold someone accountable? Ask Kamala Harris why she came for my family,” Simone tweeted. “Ask her why she separated my family. Ask her why my grandmothers [sic] estate is in SHAMBLES now. Ask her why we as her family no longer own the rights to anything. Ask her why she bullied my mother in court and my mom almost killed herself from the depression.”
“Ask her why my mother had a gag order put on her and can not speak on these things. Ask her why she didn’t even want my mom to be able to say she was Nina Simone’s daughter. Ask her why she wanted us to walk away with NOTHING,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s accusations against Harris stem from a legal battle between Simone’s family and the state of California that went on for years until it was settled in 2016. The resulting settlement lost Kelly’s mother, Lisa Simone Kelly, the rights to the late singer’s estate. As The Daily Beast reported:
But in 2013, [Lisa Simone Kelly] was accused of “breaching her fiduciary duty” to both the estate and trust, allegedly draining up to $2 million from its coffers, including a $1.5 million deposit into her personal company, according to court records reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Harris oversaw the case and came down hard on Kelly, at one point wanting to surcharge her nearly $6 million, plus more than $2.5 million in interest. Eventually, the parties came to an agreement: Kelly was stripped of her title of estate administrator and agreed to relinquish her rights to Simone’s works. She also was barred from saying or implying that she had any affiliation with her mother’s legacy and estate.
RéAnna Simone Kelly explained her family’s side of the story, denying that her mother committed fraud and asserting that Simone’s estate was French and outside of California’s control.
“The Nina Simone estate is a French Estate and we were told by US judges to go and claim Heirship in France,” Kelly said. She added that Harris as California’s attorney general then targeted her family for allegedly committing fraud “which of course, turned out to be totally false as the money she was talking about was used to pay attorneys, accountants and to protect and run the estate.”
“To be clear, Kamala had no jurisdiction over the estate because it is not an American estate. It is a French estate and should have been filed in France. Grandma was a resident of France, lived in France, and died in France. Her estate was French,” Kelly said.
“The only way Kamala could try to prosecute my mother was if my mom was not protected, which is why Kamala tried to force my mother to resign as the administrator and executive of the estate,” she continued. “To be clear, my mother did not resign because of any wrong doing on her part. My mother resigned because she was bullied and intimidated by Kamala Harris, who was the attorney general of California at the time, into resigning.”