Legal deadline prompts a slew of celebrity sexual assault lawsuits

Legal deadline prompts a slew of celebrity sexual assault lawsuits

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The list keeps growing: hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, actor Jamie Foxx, rock star Axl Rose, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr., celebrity photographer Terry Richardson, music executive L.A. Reid.

In the past month, a slew of sexual assault lawsuits has been filed against high-profile men in the entertainment industry for alleged abuse that took place years — and in some cases, decades — ago. The cases have been filed under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law signed in 2022 that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for filing a sexual assault complaint, allowing survivors one year to file suits against their alleged abusers, regardless of when the alleged abuse happened.

The act is set to expire Friday, prompting a flurry of last-minute complaints and summonses as survivors seek remedy for abuses they say they experienced as adults. On Wednesday alone, Rose and actors Gooding and Foxx were hit with lawsuits filed under the act. And in a last-minute filing Thursday, Combs was accused of another sexual assault. (R&B singer Cassie sued him earlier this month; the pair settled out of court the next day.)

Rose was accused of sexual assault by former Penthouse model Sheila Kennedy, who claims that Rose attacked and raped her in a New York hotel room in 1989.

Meanwhile, two women filed separate suits against Gooding, both alleging sexual assault and battery, one in 2018 and one in 2019. The 2019 claim involves a groping incident that Gooding pleaded guilty to last year. (The actor described it as “non-consensual physical contact” at a hearing, according to the lawsuit.)

End of carousel

Gooding settled another Adult Survivors Act lawsuit in June with a woman who accused him of raping her in 2013.

Foxx, whose legal name is Eric Marlon Bishop, was also accused of sexual assault, in an alleged incident that took place at a New York bar in 2015. That complaint, filed on behalf of “Jane Doe,” alleges that Foxx pulled her to a secluded area of the establishment and began fondling her without her consent, while a nearby security guard who witnessed the encounter walked away.

“The alleged incident never happened,” a spokesman for Foxx told Deadline on Thursday, claiming that the person had filed “a nearly identical lawsuit in Brooklyn” in 2020 that was dismissed.

In the past year, more than 2,500 lawsuits tied to the Adult Survivors Act have been filed, according to the Associated Press, which noted that most of the alleged abuse occurred at state prisons and local jails.

But the ones that have drawn the most attention have been those filed against public figures.

In October, actress Julia Ormond filed one such suit against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, 71, who is serving a 39-year sentence for rape and sexual assault in a New York state prison. Actor-comedian Russell Brand, former president Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein’s estate have also been hit with these lawsuits.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell, however, came Nov. 16, when Cassie accused her former partner Combs of sustained physical and sexual abuse during the course of their relationship, which lasted more than a decade.

Cassie, whose legal name is Casandra Ventura, signed to Combs’s Bad Boy record label when she was 19; Combs was 37 at the time. In the suit, the singer alleged that Combs introduced her to “a lifestyle of excessive alcohol and substance abuse,” often beat her, forced her to engage in sex acts with male sex workers and raped her when she attempted to leave him. Because of the graphic nature of the allegations, the 35-page complaint came with an unusual “trigger warning.”

At the time of the filing, Cassie referenced the Adult Survivors Act, saying in a prepared statement that with the act’s expiration fast approaching, “it became clear that this was an opportunity to speak up about the trauma I have experienced and that I will be recovering from for the rest of my life.”

Combs ended up settling the suit with Cassie one day later: “We have decided to resolve this matter amicably. I wish Cassie and her family all the best,” the producer-rapper said in a statement.

Days later, Harve Pierre, the former president of Bad Boy Records, was accused of grooming and sexually assaulting his assistant. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of “Jane Doe,” claims that Pierre “used his position of authority as plaintiff’s boss to groom, exploit, and sexually assault” the person, sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions between 2016 and 2017. Bad Boy Entertainment, Bad Boy Records and Combs Enterprises were also named as co-defendants for alleged negligence and gender violence.

“The allegations are from many years ago that were never brought to the attention of the company,” a spokesman for Bad Boy Entertainment said in a statement Thursday, adding: “We are now investigating the allegations, and our top priority is the safety and well-being of our employees.”

Hours before the Adult Survivors Act was set to expire, Combs was once again the subject of a sexual assault complaint for an alleged date rape in 1991.

According to the Thursday filing, the plaintiff, who was a college student at the time, later learned from DeVante Swing, a member of the R&B group Jodeci, that Combs had filmed the alleged assault and shared it with others.

“This last-minute lawsuit is an example of how a well-intentioned law can be turned on its head,” said a spokesperson for Combs, who called the allegations “made up” and “not credible.”

“This is purely a money grab and nothing more,” the spokesperson added.

Even more high-profile complaints are expected to be filed in the coming weeks. This week, summonses — a procedural precursor to a formal complaint — were filed against music producer Jimmy Iovine and New York Mayor Eric Adams.

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