Ex-Def Jam Producer Alleges Russell Simmons Raped Her and Destroyed Her Career

Reuters/Andrew Kelly
Reuters/Andrew Kelly

A former music executive has filed a lawsuit against Russell Simmons accusing him of raping her inside his New York City apartment in the late 1990s—a crime the Jane Doe plaintiff claims thwarted her career in the music industry and decimated her well-being.

It’s the latest sexual assault allegation to hit Simmons, 66, who has had similar lawsuits filed against him thrown out in recent years because the incidents were outside their statute of limitations.

The newest lawsuit was filed Tuesday in New York City, with his accuser identified as a former senior music executive and video producer at Def Jam Recordings in the ‘90s. The lawsuit was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily revived the window to bring sexual misconduct claims for a year no matter when the alleged assault took place.

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Friday’s lawsuit said Simmons invited its plaintiff to his Manhattan apartment so he could approve a rough cut for a music video. The business meeting quickly turned sexual, the ex-producer claims, with Simmons allegedly asking her to have sex with him. The woman said she rebuffed the advance and tried to play it off as a joke. Moments later, however, the lawsuit said Simmons made a “wrestling move” on the woman and pinned her arms down on his bed. He then raped her, the lawsuit said.

The woman said she fought against Simmons, yelling at him to “get off” and “stop” several times, but the weight of his body was too much for her to break free.

“She told him she was ‘serious’ and she ‘meant it,’’ the lawsuit said. “But Ms. Doe was forcefully pinned.”

That alleged horror wasn’t the end of Simmons’ harassment of the plaintiff, the lawsuit claims. From then on, the woman said Simmons made sexual advances toward her inside Def Jam’s offices and would repeatedly trap her inside rooms in the building.

The lawsuit said Simmons would “aggressively” invade the woman’s personal space and rub the front of his pants while standing by her.

The accuser said this harassment made it impossible for her to focus on her job as a music executive. She said she suffered from frequent panic attacks, was depressed, and developed an eating disorder, making her a shell of the “confident and enthusiastic executive” she once was.

While a date for the alleged rape wasn’t listed, the lawsuit said Jane Doe resigned from Def Jam in 1997, “just a short time after the assault.” The lawsuit said her colleagues were shocked by the decision because they knew it was a “job she loved,” which had placed her “at the height of her success and financial viability.”

The plaintiff said she moved to Los Angeles to start a new life, but the trauma of Simmons’ alleged assault and harassment followed her there.

“She was experiencing debilitating anxiety, had difficulty handling emotions in a professional setting, unexplained mood shifts, and severe depression,” the lawsuit said. “Formerly an exemplary employee with nothing but positive and productive relationships with male employers, Ms. Doe became defensive, anxious, and sensitive.”

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Listed representatives for Simmons did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. He did not address the new allegations publicly, but claimed previously—after his initial assault allegations emerged—that he was never violent with women.

Simmons sold his stake in Def Jam, a label he founded, in 1999. He remained in music after the sale, but fled his native New York City for Bali in 2017 after he was accused of rape and sexual misconduct by multiple women.

The disgraced mogul was the subject of a 2020 documentary about his alleged sexual assaults. It’s unclear if the latest lawsuit against him will be able to stand under the survivor’s act because its one-year period to wave the statute of limitations expired in November, but some extensions for the act have been made by New York courts.

The lawsuit said Jane Doe is seeking general, punitive, and economic damages for loss of her job, loss of business opportunities, and the loss of wages. It added that she’s also seeking compensation her for the injuries she suffered as a result of the alleged assault.

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