Russell Simmons has been sued for sexual harassment and battery by a former Def Jam Recordings executive, who accuses the music mogul of raping her at his apartment more than 25 years ago.
The plaintiff, who sued as a Jane Doe, is described in the complaint filed in New York federal court on Tuesday as a former senior music executive and video producer at at the label who currently works as a writer and producer. She says her career was stalled by Simmons’ systematic harassment of her in the 1990s.
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According to the complaint, Simmons asked the accuser to visit his apartment in New York to approve a new video. He initially began to “wrestle” with her “in an attempt to appear playful,” but the “situation escalated into aggression,” with him pinning her down on a bed, the suit claims.
“Ms. Doe repeatedly told Mr. Simmons to get off of her, but he refused,” the complaint states. “Mr. Simmons proceeded to rape her.”
After the alleged assault, the accuser struggled to perform her executive job duties due to frequent panic attacks, depression and anxiety, the complaint states. She says she resigned in 1997 shortly following the incident, leaving to work as an executive producer for film and commercial production companies.
The suit also claims Simmons repeatedly harassed the accuser at Def Jam’s offices.
“He would sit on her desk, lean over her, aggressively invading her personal space while making sexual innuendos, suggestions, and advances, and rubbing the front of his pants,” states the complaint, which notes that the harassment became so pervasive that a senior executive would often tell Simmons to leave his accuser’s office. “Mr. Simmons would follow Ms. Doe to the door or block her path to prevent her from opening it again.”
The suit brings claims for battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of New York’s gender motivated violence law. It was brought under the state’s Adult Survivors Act, which revived the window to bring sexual misconduct claims for one year regardless of the statute of limitations. The window to file a lawsuit under that law closed in November. It is unclear if the lawsuit can proceed under that Act.
Plaintiffs, who typically would’ve been constrained from suing under the statute of limitations, took advantage of the state law to sue a series of high-profile figures in Hollywood and the music industry, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jimmy Iovine, ex-Grammy CEO Neil Portnow, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jamie Foxx, among others. Roughly 2,700 complaints were filed citing the law.
The case follows accusations from Drew Dixon, a former Arista Records and Def Jam executive who in 2017 accused Simmons of raping her in 1995 and Antonio “L.A.” Reid of harassing her. Last year, she sued Reid for sexual assault and retaliation for allegedly obstructing her career after she rebuffed further advances. Simmons was not named in the complaint, through Dixon’s lawyers this month moved for all documents and electronic communications related to her allegations against Simmons.
In 1999, Simmons sold his stake in Def Jam for a reported $100 million.
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