Russell Simmons sued in alleged rape of Def Jam executive in the ’90s

Russell Simmons smiles in a Yankees hat, gray blazer, white suit shirt and a beaded necklace
A lawsuit alleges Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons of raping an employee in his Manhattan apartment.
(Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

Disgraced music mogul Russell Simmons is at the center of a new lawsuit that alleges he raped a former Def Jam Recordings employee in his Manhattan apartment during the 1990s.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, comes from an accuser — identified in the suit only as Jane Doe — who said she worked as a senior music executive at Def Jam. She alleges that she was “sexually harassed, assaulted, sexually battered, and raped” by Simmons during her time at the label.

“Ms. Doe’s career in the music industry was disrupted and derailed by a devastating experience at the hands of Mr. Simmons,” the lawsuit, filed by her attorney Kenya K. Davis, says.


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A representative for Simmons shared his statement with The Times: “I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex. I would not, did not, and never will.”

The representative also said that Simmons “has voluntarily taken numerous lie detector tests all of which support his statement.”

The lawsuit, reviewed by The Times, describes Doe as a former music video producer who began working for Def Jam in the mid-’90s. When she was at the company, Doe expanded the label’s presence on MTV, enlisted high-profile directors and creatives for Def Jam projects and produced award-winning videos, the lawsuit said.

According to the complaint, Doe — like other employees — often visited Simmons’ apartment in Manhattan to conduct business affairs. The suit said that before the assault, Doe had gone to Simmons’ home multiple times to deliver music videos for review “with no incident.”

The complaint alleged Simmons, who sold his stake in the company in 1999, “suddenly began to turn his rapacious attention” toward Doe. In the Def Jam office, Simmons would allegedly visit Doe’s office, sit on her desk, lean over her and make sexually suggestive and inappropriate comments. He also rubbed the front of his pants while in Doe’s office, according to the lawsuit.

“This happened repeatedly during that time period,” the lawsuit said, adding that another senior executive had once yelled at Simmons to leave Doe’s office.


The alleged rape occurred on an unspecified date when Doe visited Simmons’ apartment to get his approval for a music video, the suit said. The complaint says Simmons made sexual advances on Doe, asking explicit questions about her undergarments and her sexual preferences.

After Doe urged Simmons to shift his attention back to work, he allegedly brought her to a bedroom to watch the rough cut of the music video. The complaint said it was common practice for Simmons to carry out business matters from his bedroom. The suit said Simmons began jumping on the bed and requested that Doe have sex with him. She refused.

“All of a sudden, Mr. Simmons performed a ‘wrestling move,’ climbing on top of Ms. Doe and pinning her arms down to the bed,” the lawsuit said.

As Simmons allegedly repeated his requests for sex, Doe told him to stop and get off her multiple times, the suit said. He continued ignoring her refusals, and “proceeded to rape her.” Then Simmons went to a nearby bathroom, leaving the door open to discuss business matters with Doe before dismissing her back to the office.

Doe quit Def Jam in 1997 and went on to work as an executive producer for several film, television and commercial companies. She struggled to stay in one job due to the trauma of her alleged rape by Simmons.

A representative for Def Jam did not comment.

“After the assault, she became a completely different person,” the lawsuit said.

Simmons’ alleged rape of Doe resulted in “overwhelming anxiety, shame, humiliation and debilitating low self-esteem,” the court document said. In addition to leaving her Def Jam job, Doe also moved from New York to California.


She is seeking an unspecified amount in damages including loss of employment, loss of wages and compensation. Doe also demanded a trial by jury on all triable claims.

Tuesday’s lawsuit is the latest claim in a string of sexual harassment allegations against Simmons. Amid the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, multiple women came forward accusing Simmons of rape, including model Keri Claussen Khalighi. He denied the claims and stepped down from his various business endeavors.

A year later in 2018, Simmons was hit with a $10-million rape lawsuit by a woman who said Simmons forced himself on her in a hotel room after a concert. He also denied that allegation.

“I vehemently deny all the allegations made against me. They have shocked me to my core as I have never been abusive or violent in any way in my relations with women,” he said at the time.

Times researcher Cary Schneider contributed to this report.