Despite apology, Sean 'Diddy' Combs faces peril after video shows him attacking Cassie Ventura

Sean "Diddy" Combs in big sunglasses and a black letterman jacket
Sean "Diddy" Combs. (Willy Sanjuan / Invision / Associated Press)

A video showing music legend Sean “Diddy” Combs violently attacking his then-girlfriend in a Los Angeles hotel in 2016 has put the embattled star in heightened peril as he faces a federal sex-trafficking investigation.

The video shows Combs chasing, kicking, dragging and hurling a glass vase at Cassie, a singer whose real name is Casandra Ventura. It corroborates parts of a civil lawsuit Ventura filed against Combs last year, which was settled a day after it was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Allegations against Combs have piled up in recent years and he has steadfastly denied wrongdoing, including when Ventura filed her suit. But after facing intense backlash, Combs on Sunday posted a video on Instagram in which he apologized for his behavior in the video.

“It’s so difficult to reflect on the darkest times in your life, but sometimes you got to do that,” he said. "My behavior on that video is inexcusable.”

Combs said he entered "therapy and rehab" after the incident. "I take full responsibility for my actions in that video. I'm disgusted. I was disgusted then when I did it. I’m disgusted now," he said.

The video is not related to the federal probe, but it has drawn more attention to the ongoing investigation.

Law enforcement sources who were not authorized to speak publicly told The Times that Combs is the subject of a sweeping inquiry into sex-trafficking allegations that resulted in a federal raid in March at his estates in Los Angeles and Miami. Combs has not been charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing. The probe was launched after three women accused him of rape, assault and other abuses dating back three decades. One of the allegations involved a minor. It's unclear whether those accusations, which Combs denies, are connected to the investigation.

Read more: Sean 'Diddy' Combs seen on video chasing, kicking, dragging then-girlfriend Cassie at L.A. hotel

A law enforcement agent carries a bag of evidence at the entrance to a property belonging to rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs
A law enforcement agent carries a bag of evidence at the entrance to a property belonging to rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office called the video "extremely disturbing and difficult to watch" but said there is no current investigation into it.

"If the conduct depicted occurred in 2016, unfortunately we would be unable to charge as the conduct would have occurred beyond the timeline where a crime of assault can be prosecuted," the statement said. "As of today, law enforcement has not presented a case related to the attack depicted in the video against Mr. Combs."

But legal experts said the video, first obtained by CNN, is a major blow to Combs' denials that he mistreated women and is likely to shift public opinion about the star.

"This video paints him in an awful light. If the people were giving him the benefit of doubt, that is over,” said Los Angeles defense attorney Lou Shapiro. Combs' apology "was the only play, especially since the statute of limitations has already passed," he said.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, agreed.

"There is no legal or moral justification for what Diddy did. He violently attacked a defenseless woman," Rahmani said, adding that the "video doesn't lie."

When Ventura filed her lawsuit, Combs' attorney said the claim was "riddled with baseless and outrageous lies, aiming to tarnish Mr. Combs’ reputation and seeking a payday.”

The video, both Shapiro and Rahmani said, presents major credibility challenges. “The problem here is he denied hitting [Ventura] and then in this video he is even kicking her when she is down," Shapiro said.

"Diddy’s sharp denials early on are going to hurt him as the investigation progresses,” added Meghan Blanco, an Orange County defense attorney who has experience with federal sex-offense cases.

“Any apology needed to be detailed enough for the public to gain some insight into why he behaved so violently in the first place, and why, after attending counseling and engaging in years of self-reflection, he continued to deny assaulting Cassie," she said. "This fell far short of that."

The video could require Combs' legal team to argue his treatment of Ventura was an isolated event and not a pattern of behavior toward women, Blanco added.

Read more: Feds want Sean 'Diddy' Combs' communications, flight records in sex-trafficking probe

Read more: A timeline of allegations against Sean 'Diddy' Combs

The recording, dated March 5, 2016, shows Ventura in a hoodie and carrying a duffel bag, walking in a hotel hallway toward an elevator. Combs can be seen running down the same hallway, shirtless and holding a towel around his waist.

The lawsuit said it occurred at the InterContinental hotel in Century City. After Combs fell asleep, Ventura attempted to leave the room, the lawsuit said, but he awoke and “began screaming” at her. “He followed her into the hallway of the hotel while yelling at her,” the complaint said. “He grabbed at her, and then took glass vases in the hallway and threw them at her, causing glass to crash around them as she ran to the elevator to escape.”

Security footage captured from another angle shows him grabbing Ventura’s head and throwing her on the ground, where he kicks her multiple times. He can also be seen picking up her bags and trying to drag her back to the first hallway.

The footage also shows Ventura using a hotel phone by the elevators, as well as Combs going back to his hotel room and then separately seemingly shoving Ventura into a corner. He is also seen throwing a vase in her direction.

Ventura also accused Combs in her lawsuit of raping her, forcing her to engage in sex acts with male sex workers and introducing her to “a lifestyle of excessive alcohol and substance abuse” that required her “to procure illicit prescriptions to satisfy his own addictions.”

Sean Combs poses at an event in a cream suit.
Sean "Diddy" Combs arrives at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 15, 2022. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press)

Read more: Accusing a pop superstar of sex trafficking: What R. Kelly case tells us about Sean 'Diddy' Combs

Authorities walk on a street near a property belonging to Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Authorities walk on a street near a property belonging to Sean "Diddy" Combs. (Eric Thayer / Associated Press)

Little is known about the federal probe, including the identities of any alleged victims. People with knowledge of the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly said federal investigators are seeking telecommunications and flight records related to Combs. Back in March, investigators searching Combs’ Holmby Hills home emptied safes, dismantled electronics and left papers strewn in some rooms, sources told The Times.

Read more: Inside the Sean 'Diddy' Combs' raids: Emptied safes, dismantled electronics, gun-toting feds

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigates most sex-trafficking operations for the federal government. Legal experts say one reason the agency could be involved in this case is because the women involved in the allegations against Combs might be from other countries.

Combs' lawyers have strongly criticized the federal probe, calling the searches of his homes "militarized" and a "witch hunt."

“This unprecedented ambush — paired with an advanced, coordinated media presence — leads to a premature rush to judgment of Mr. Combs and is nothing more than a witch hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits," attorney Aaron Dyer said in March.

In addition to the federal investigation, Combs faces the civil lawsuits from the three women. He has denied wrongdoing.

The lawsuits were filed under the Adult Survivors Act, a law that went into effect in November 2022 in New York that allows individuals who believe they were sexually assaulted a one-year window during which they can sue their abusers, even if the statute of limitations for prosecuting the underlying alleged crimes had expired.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.