Russell Simmons has been sued for rape by a former senior music executive and video producer at Def Jam Recordings.
The woman, identified as Jane Doe, said the alleged incident happened while she worked for the record company in the late 1990s, according to court documents obtained by TheWrap.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Simmons “sexually harassed, assaulted, sexually battered, and raped” Doe when she visited his Manhattan apartment for a work-related item review. According to the documents, Doe is today an “accomplished film producer” who at the time of the incident was responsible for the video division’s “rapid growth and expansion” and produced “higher quality videos that MTV then sought to play.” Her career is said to have been “disrupted and derailed” by her experience with Def Jam cofounder and the then-“king of hip-hop” Simmons.
“At the peak of her career success at Def Jam, making award-winning videos for their biggest artists, she experienced overwhelming anxiety, shame, humiliation and debilitating low self-esteem,” the documents read. “She suffered frequent panic attacks, struggling to go to the Def Jam offices or to function in her leadership role. She tried to continue to work at Def Jam, but just a short time after the assault, to the surprise of peers and colleagues, she gave notice, quit the job she loved, and moved across the country to California. She eventually confided in a small group of trusted friends and therapists about what happened — long before the passage of New York’s Adult Survivors Act in 2022.”
In all, the complaint seeks “general, punitive and economic damages for loss of employment, loss of business opportunities [and] loss of wages” on behalf of Doe, who also seeks compensation for “injuries suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct alleged herein.”
In a statement to TheWrap, Doe’s lawyer Kenya Davis of Boies Schiller Flexner said, “As detailed in the complaint, our client was sexually assaulted and harassed by her boss, Russell Simmons, while pursuing her professional ambitions as an executive at Def Jam. She was proud of her contributions to the burgeoning musical genre of hip-hop, but her hard work and her career in music was disrupted and derailed by Mr. Simmons, a rich and powerful celebrity whose wealth and influence allowed his abusive behavior to go unchallenged for decades.
“Now a successful writer and producer in the entertainment industry, Jane Doe’s traumatic experiences with Simmons echo those of so many other women who he has preyed upon for decades,” Davis said.
Representatives for Simmons did not immediately reply to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Simmons previously faced a lawsuit for an alleged rape in 2018 before it was dismissed in 2020. He had also at the time been accused of sexual misconduct by 20 women — accusations which he “vehemently” denied.
Tuesday’s lawsuit was brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which expands the statute of limitations for sexual misconduct claims for one year.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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