Russell Simmons accused of sexual assault by former Def Jam executive

Russell Simmons at the 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference in California. May 3, 2016.


Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

A former employee of Def Jam Recordings has alleged that the label’s co-founder, Russell Simmons, subjected her to sexual harassment and battery. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York on February 13, viewed by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, the Jane Doe identifies herself as having “worked as a senior level music executive at Def Jam Recordings” in the 1990s.

The plaintiff claims that Simmons used a “wrestling move” to pin her to the bed in his New York apartment and subsequently raped her. She says that Simmons “disrupted and derailed” her career after the alleged assault. The listed causes of action include sexual battery/assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Simmons’ attorney has denied the allegations. “Mr. Simmons has always maintained that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual relationships with anyone,” the attorney said. “And he has voluntarily taken a number of lie detector tests that support that.”

According to the lawsuit, Simmons harassed Jane Doe in the Def Jam offices when they worked together. “Mr. Simmons would arrive at Def Jam, enter Ms. Doe’s office, and shut the door behind him,” the suit states. “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.”

The assault took place when Doe was asked to visit Simmons’ New York apartment to view a music video the label were planning to release. Doe alleges that Simmons began playfighting with her and that this, in turn, led to the alleged attack. “The situation escalated into aggression and Mr. Simmons pinned Ms. Doe down on a bed,” the suit says. “Ms. Doe repeatedly told Mr. Simmons to get off of her, but he refused. Mr. Simmons proceeded to rape her.”

It is alleged that Simmons continued to harass Doe while working at Def Jam’s Manhattan 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,” the complaint states.

The complaint is one of a number brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act (ASA). The year-long window for sexual assault claims that had previously fallen outside the statute of limitations closed in November. It is unclear if this specific lawsuit can proceed under the ASA or via the Gender-Motivated Violence Act

Since 2017, Simmons has faced accusations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct from over 20 women. He has “vehemently” denied any wrongdoing, going so far as to launch (and subsequently pause) his own #NotMe campaign in response to #MeToo.