Russell Simmons Accused of Sexual Assault in New Federal Lawsuit


Note: This article contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault.

In a newly filed lawsuit, a woman alleges that Russell Simmons sexually assaulted her in New York in the 1990s. The woman, identified as Jane Doe, currently lives in Los Angeles, and she says in her lawsuit that she is a film producer who previously “worked as a senior level music executive at Def Jam Recordings.” Doe filed her lawsuit today (February 13) in a New York federal court.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by Pitchfork, Doe was a music video producer in the early 1990s, working often on videos for Def Jam Recordings—the hip-hop label that Russell Simmons co-founded with Rick Rubin in 1984. She says “went in-house and worked for Def Jam” in the mid-1990s. At the label, she says, “she was responsible for supervising all film production and a demanding release schedule for a large artists roster.”

Doe claims that she and Simmons had a professional relationship when they first met and that the executive “was not flirtatious with her at all.” She also says that it was common practice to bring music videos to Simmons’ Manhattan apartment for review and that she did so “with no incident.” Eventually, according to the complaint, “Simmons suddenly began to turn his rapacious attention toward Ms. Doe,” allegedly “invading her personal space while making sexual innuendos, suggestions, and advances, and rubbing the front of his pants.”

According to the complaint, the alleged assault occurred on an occasion where “Ms. Doe brought to Mr. Simmons’s apartment a rough cut of a video she needed him to view for approval.” The executive, according to the lawsuit, “aggressively and relentlessly flirted with Ms. Doe, made sexual innuendos and advances, asked sexually explicit questions, including personal questions about her sexual preferences and questioning if she was currently wearing a bra.”

Simmons allegedly brought Doe to his bedroom to watch the rough cut of the music video and he asked Doe to have sex; she rejected his advances. “All of a sudden,” according to the complaint, “Mr. Simmons performed a ‘wrestling move,’ climbing on top of Ms. Doe and pinning her arms down on the bed.” Simmons allegedly persisted in asking Doe to have sex, and she repeatedly rejected him. “Simmons ignored Ms. Doe’s resistance and proceeded to rape her,” according to the complaint.

Doe says that, following the alleged assault, she “quit Def Jam in 1997 and worked as an executive producer for film and commercial production companies.” She also claims that, as a result of the alleged assault, she “struggled in her relationships with employers” and “became overwhelmed with anxiety.” In addition, she says she left New York and moved to California. “After the assault, she became a completely different person,” the lawsuit states.

Formally, Jane Doe is suing Russell Simmons for sexual battery/assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the New York City Gender Motivated Violence Act. The lawsuit is filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act and Gender Motivated Violence Act.

In a statement, Doe’s attorneys, Kenya K. Davis and Sigrid S. McCawley, 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.

Simmons said in a statement shared with Pitchfork: “I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex. I would not, did not, and never will.”

Russell Simmons sold Def Jam Recordings to Universal Music Group in 1999. Since 2017, he has faced several allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. He has largely denied the allegations, and he stepped down from his various companies as the women’s claims emerged.

Simmons was sued in 2018 by Jennifer Jarosik, who claimed that the executive raped her in 2016. Simmons denied her claims, and the lawsuit was dropped.

Simons was also sued by a woman identified Jane Doe in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2018. The woman alleged that Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1988, and her lawsuit was dismissed in November 2020, as a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. Simmons had also denied the woman’s allegations.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, we encourage you to reach out for support:

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
1 800 656 HOPE (4673)

Crisis Text Line
SMS: Text “HELLO” or “HOLA” to 741-741