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Russell Simmons accused of sexual assault, denies claims

Russell Simmons
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Music mogul and Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons and filmmaker and producer Brett Ratner have been accused of sexual misconduct and assault in a new report from LA Times. In the report, model Keri Claussen Khalighi describes a 1991 incident where, at Simmons’ apartment, in the company of Ratner, Simmons allegedly tried to force her to have sex with him. She says she fought him off, then was coerced into oral sex, all while Ratner watched. She also alleges being assaulted by Simmons in the shower:

Simmons began making aggressive sexual advances, yanking off her clothes, Khalighi said.

“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she recalled. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”

Khalighi said that Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to force her to have intercourse. “I fought it wildly,” she said. He eventually relented and coerced her to perform oral sex, she alleged. “I guess I just acquiesced.”

Ratner, meanwhile, “just sat there and watched,” she said.

Feeling “disgusting,” Khalighi said she went to take a shower. Minutes later, she alleged, Simmons walked up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrated her without her consent. She said she jerked away, then he left. “It hurt so much.”

Simmons and Ratner deny the allegations, with Simmons saying, “everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation.” Simmons also claims that the time they spent together, two days and one night, was mostly with other people, or in public. Ratner, speaking through his attorney Martin Singer, says he doesn’t remember being asked for help.

Khalighi says she got a “touching, remorseful apology” from Simmons a year ago at Soho House in West Hollywood.

“He knew what he had done; I knew what he had done,” she said. “That’s also why it was so vindicating, because it was there, acknowledged.”

Simmons’ lawyer Brad D. Rose says the apology Khalighi refers to was in the “context for the embarrassment and upheaval the weekend caused her” related to her “infidelity.” Simmons also told LA Times that Khalighi’s claim “does a disservice to those who have been true victims of sexual harassment.”

More recently, Khalighi says she spoke on the phone with Simmons immediately before the publication of a report on Ratner’s alleged misconduct. She says he apologized again during their 27 minute call, brought up his two daughters, and continued to text message her following the call.

Khalighi also says she saw Ratner out in LA about 15 years ago, and claims, “he listened and he un-defensively acknowledged the truth of what had happened. He said he was young and stupid and blinded by Russell’s sway over him.” Ratner’s attorney says Ratner has “no recollection” of this discussion.

LA Times was provided with a signed statement from Simmons’ former assistant, Anthony “Mac” McNair, saying he saw Khalighi enter Simmons’ bedroom “on her own volition and without any coercion or undue influence.” He also says he didn’t see “any visible signs of distress or that anything improper had occurred.” Simmons’ lawyer provided LA Times with two more anonymous statements also saying they hadn’t seen any signs of distress from Khalighi. Khalighi says she didn’t see anyone else in Simmons’ home on the night in question.

LA Times‘ report also recounts an experience Tanya Reid, an aspiring model, claims to have had with Simmons and Ratner. While working the front desk of a hotel they were staying at, she describes receiving multiple calls from them. The report continues:

Simmons asked her to personally bring a toothbrush to him, but she deflected, saying a bellman would handle it. “I remember this very, very clearly, the exact words he said on the phone. He wanted me to come upstairs so Brett could hold me down and he could [perform oral sex],” Reid said.

One day, Ratner invited her up to his hotel room as she was leaving work. Spread out on his bed were photographs of models appearing in his video. Ratner asked if she wanted to be one of them, Reid recalled. She gave him her phone number. A couple of days later, he stopped by her apartment, a few blocks from the hotel. Not long after they sat down on her living room sofa, he exposed himself, put her hand on his crotch and asked for oral sex, she said.

Reid, who was an 18-year-old virgin, said she asked if they could just kiss. He then allegedly used his hand to push her head to his groin. Eventually, she said she gave in. Ratner left immediately after, and she never heard from him again.

Simmons and Ratner were previously investigated for alleged sexual battery in 2001, according to a Variety report. An anonymous 29 year old model claimed she had been “held against her will” and “touched unlawfully” by both men. Prosecutors didn’t press charges due to insufficient evidence, and Simmons and Ratner both denied the allegations.

Aside from his work as a director and producer in films and television, Brett Ratner has directed music videos for artists like Cannibal Corpse (“Make Them Suffer”), Public Enemy (“Louder Than a Bomb”) and Wu-Tang Clan (“Triumph”), as well as multiple videos for Mariah Carey. He’s also been the subject of previous allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment. Six women came forward with allegations against Ratner in another LA Times report, actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge among them. The allegations include Ratner forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him and masturbating in front of multiple women without their consent. Additional women contacted LA Times since that report, alleging more inappropriate behavior from Ratner and the men he surrounded himself with, like director James Toback, who has been accused of sexual harassment by over 200 women himself. Actress Ellen Page also accused Ratner of outing her on the set of X Men: The Last Stand in a Facebook post about sexual misconduct and abuse in Hollywood. Ratner denies all allegations.

Simmons made a statement on Facebook addressing and denying the claims in LA Times‘s report, where he says, “Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being. I have always spoken out regarding my life experiences, women’s issues and the need to bring a faster and more decisive shift in the collective consciousness that will help bring about true women’s equality. More than anything, I want my daughters to live in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.” Read the statement in full below.

As a long-time social activist, I have applauded the strength of the brave men and women who have spoken out over the past month and made their voices heard regarding sexual assault and harassment. I am a supporter of the #MeToo campaign and the victims who were previously terrified to stand up and speak out against sexual misconduct. I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.

I know Keri Claussen Khalighi and remember the weekend in 1991 that she has referenced. Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation. We spent time in my apartment over a period of two days and one night, as well as at some public places including Nell’s Nightclub. Much of the time we were in the presence of other acquaintances. I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend.

Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being. I have always spoken out regarding my life experiences, women’s issues and the need to bring a faster and more decisive shift in the collective consciousness that will help bring about true women’s equality. More than anything, I want my daughters to live in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.

The LA Times article also references an allegation by Ms. Tanya Reid. I mean no disrespect to her at all when I say I honestly do not recall my telephone conversation with a hotel front desk clerk from over a quarter-century ago.

In addition, there were multiple witnesses during the entire weekend. Three of their statements were provided to LA Times prior to publication.

Actor Terry Crews, who, as he told Good Morning America, was allegedly assaulted at a party by Hollywood executive Adam Venit, says he received an email from Simmons recommending Crews “give the agent a pass.” Crews responded, “NO ONE GETS A PASS.” See Crews’ screenshot of the email, and his response, below.

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