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The NYPD Has Opened An Investigation Into Russell Simmons Amid Sex Assault Allegations

One of the alleged victims told BuzzFeed News she had been contacted by police investigators. Simmons has strongly denied the accusations.

Last updated on December 15, 2017, at 8:29 p.m. ET

Posted on December 13, 2017, at 9:28 p.m. ET

Russell Simmons speaks at a news conference in 2006.
Dima Gavrysh / AP

Russell Simmons speaks at a news conference in 2006.

Ten more women have come forward with allegations that music mogul Russell Simmons raped or sexually harassed them in reports published Wednesday by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

The New York Police Department has since starting looking into the allegations, Sgt. Brendan Ryan confirmed Thursday. One of the alleged victims also told BuzzFeed News she had been contacted by police investigators.

"Russell Simmons fully supports and will cooperate with the police inquiry and is confident of a swift resolution," his attorney Brad D. Rose told BuzzFeed News. Simmons also participated in a polygraph test and the results will be released in due course, according to a source.

Police in Los Angeles and Seattle, where other alleged assaults and harassment occurred, told BuzzFeed News they have no active investigation into the matter.

Four of the women spoke on the record with the New York Times, emboldened, they said, by the sea change in how victims' stories have been treated in the wake of allegations against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men in entertainment and other industries. Three of the four women who spoke to the Times said Simmons raped them after exhibiting sexually violent and abusive behavior.

Others said they made the decision to come forward after reading Simmons' denials of earlier allegations, including those made by model Keri Claussen Khalighi, who told the Los Angeles Times in November that Simmons assaulted her after he and film director Brett Ratner took her back to the music mogul's apartment under the guise of showing her a music video they were working on. In a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter last month, screenwriter Jenny Lumet also accused Simmons of raping her in 1991.

Mike D of the Beastie Boys (right) with Russell Simmons in London in 1987.
AP

Mike D of the Beastie Boys (right) with Russell Simmons in London in 1987.

Taken together, the allegations date from the early 1980s, when Simmons was cementing his status as an elder statesman of hip-hop via Def Jam records, to just a few years ago.

Following the allegations by Lumet and Khalighi, Simmons, now 60, announced that he was stepping down from his business empire, including his yoga venture Tantric, so as not to serve as a distraction.

But on Wednesday after the reports by the LA Times and New York Times were published, Simmons issued a much more strongly worded statement denying the accusations.

"I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual," he said. "I have enormous respect for the women's movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power."

Allegations of rape

Drew Dixon told the New York Times she was working as an executive at Def Jam Recordings in 1995 when Simmons started to be sexually abusive toward her. Dixon, who was 24 at the time, tried to stave off the harassment until later that year, when she said Simmons raped her in his Manhattan apartment.

She quit her position at Def Jam soon after.

"I was broken," she told the New York Times.

Toni Sallie was a 28-year-old music journalist for the trade magazine Black Radio Exclusive when she met Simmons while on assignment in 1987. After a few dates, their relationship didn't work out, she said, but they remained in touch and one night the following year, Simmons invited her to a party at his apartment.

When she arrived, however, she discovered they were alone. She told the Times that while giving her a tour of the apartment, Simmons threw her on a bed and raped her.

Tina Baker, a singer at the time, was also allegedly attacked after agreeing to return to Simmons' apartment in the early 1990s. Once inside, she told the Times, he pinned her down and raped her.

"I did nothing," she said. "I shut my eyes and waited for it to end."

Sherri Hines, a member of hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies who went by the stage name Sheri Sher when she encountered Simmons in 1983, told the LA Times that the music mogul raped her in his office after running into her at nightclub when she was just 17 or 18 years old.

After sitting down on a couch, she said, he pinned her down and raped her despite her attempts to fight him off.

"I left crying," she told the paper.

Entertainer Will Smith palms Russell Simmons' head during the Source Awards in Hollywood in 1999.
Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press

Entertainer Will Smith palms Russell Simmons' head during the Source Awards in Hollywood in 1999.

Allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct

Other women who spoke out relayed stories of alleged misconduct by Simmons, ranging from an assault inside a nightclub bathroom to using his position at Tantric yoga studios to pressure instructors and members into sexually inappropriate situations.

The women also spoke about having to deal with sexually vulgar and suggestive language, or be on constant watch for the next aggressive move.

In one alleged case, Erin Beattie, a massage therapist, was 24 when she was booked for an in-room massage at the Alexis Hotel in 2005 with Simmons. She told the LA Times that halfway through the session, Simmons removed his sheet and exposed his penis.

"He was like, ‘Do you want to work this out?’” she recalled. Beattie told the paper that she stayed in the room only after Simmons agreed to no sexual contact.

Publicist Kelly Cutrone, who has had guest spots on reality TV, also told Page Six that Simmons attempted to rape her in 1991.

"He pushed me into his apartment and then he threw me down on the floor and literally tried to grab…take my clothes off of me,” Cutrone said. “And I started kicking him really, really hard, screaming, telling him to get the fuck off of me.

Fear of reprisal

In each of the cases reported Wednesday, the women confided in people in their inner circle at the time about the alleged assaults, including friends and a therapist, who then corroborated what they had been told to both news organizations.

Russell Simmons at the 2012 Green Festival in New York City.
Mediapunch Inc. / MediaPunch Inc./MediaPunch/IPx

Russell Simmons at the 2012 Green Festival in New York City.

Over and over, the women said they had waited so many years to come forward out of fear of retaliation, particularly given Simmons' position atop a vast empire of production, fashion, and lifestyle business ventures.

"I didn’t want to cut off my one conduit to having any hope of a career," Dixon, the former Def Jam music exec, told the New York Times.

Hines even based an encounter in her novel Mercedes Ladies on the alleged rape, but was too scared to identify Simmons by name, instead referring to him as a powerful businessman named "Ron."

BuzzFeed News reached out to multiple women named in both reports, including Beattie, Sallie, and Dixon, as well as to the local authorities where the alleged assaults occurred.

Simmons' response

The music mogul has denied all of the allegations of misconduct against him so far. In some cases, he has acknowledged some form of relationship with the women, but insisted that at no time did he engage in nonconsensual sexual conduct.

Here is his full statement released on Wednesday:

I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.

I am blessed to have shared extraordinary relationships, whether through work or love, with many great women; and I have enormous respect for the women’s movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power. I am devastated by any reason I may have given to anyone to say or think of me in the ways that are currently being described. In recent weeks, some former business, creative and romantic partners have aired grievances as claims I categorically reject. In some of these instances, financial motives and direct contradictory witness testimony has been supplied to the media, which has been completely left out of stories. In the last few days, one woman attempted to extort me for $500,000 only to recant her ridiculous claim. The current allegations sent to me by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times range from the patently untrue to the frivolous and hurtful. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty must not be replaced by “Guilty by Accusation.”

I have already apologized for the instances of thoughtlessness in my consensual relations. I have separated myself from my businesses and charities in order to not become a distraction. I have re-dedicated myself to spiritual learning, healing and working on behalf of the communities to which I have devoted my life. I have accepted that I can and should get dirt on my sleeves if it means witnessing the birth of a new consciousness about women. What I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done. I have conducted my life with a message of peace and love. Although I have been candid about how I have lived in books and interviews detailing my flaws, I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence.