Prosecutors Are Considering Charging Diplo With Sexual Misconduct
The Los Angeles city attorney is reviewing allegations that stem from an October 2020 police report.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office is considering criminal charges against celebrity DJ Diplo following a police investigation into sexual misconduct allegations. The office told BuzzFeed News it is considering charges of invasion of privacy and intentionally giving someone a sexually transmitted infection.
The investigation into the 42-year-old performer, whose legal name is Thomas Wesley Pentz and who has worked with some of the world’s biggest music stars including Beyoncé and Ariana Grande, stems from a complaint made with the LAPD in October 2020. In it, a 25-year-old woman accuses Pentz of recording sexually explicit videos of her without her permission, distributing at least one without her consent, and knowingly infecting her with chlamydia. The allegations are also detailed in a request she filed for a temporary restraining order and in a civil lawsuit earlier this year.
“We are reviewing the referral and have no further comment at this time,” said Rob Wilcox, spokesperson for the LA city attorney.
The woman, whose name BuzzFeed News is withholding because the LAPD is not identifying her, also told police that Pentz had raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room after one of his concerts. No criminal charges have been filed in relation to that alleged incident.
Lawyers for Pentz did not answer detailed questions for this story, but sent BuzzFeed News a letter reiterating the staunch denials of all allegations that they have made in prior statements and court documents. They said the letter could not be quoted.
The previously unreported news about the police investigation and its submission to prosecutors reveals a new level of scrutiny for allegations brought by the woman nearly a year ago. Pentz has denied the charges and launched a vigorous counterattack. He secured a temporary restraining order against her and has sued her for stalking, trespassing, and distribution of private materials. It is unclear if he has also filed any reports with law enforcement.
One of the explicit videos investigated by LA police was posted in October 2020, by an anonymous account. The video was tweeted repeatedly to multiple Twitter users who were expressing support for the woman, according to the lawsuit.
The police also reviewed explicit videos of other women that Pentz’s accuser says he shared with her, and interviewed some of the subjects of those videos, according to emails from a source with direct knowledge of the investigation seen by BuzzFeed News.
The LAPD and the investigating detective did not respond to requests for comment.
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In November 2020, Pentz’s lawyer denied the claims that his client had shared the videos, saying, “In no way has my client violated any law. In fact, he has repeatedly made it clear that he wants nothing whatsoever to do with this person — and simply needs her ongoing harassment of his family to end.”
Under California law, recording a video without a person’s consent and knowingly passing on a sexually transmitted infection are misdemeanors, a category of offense that falls under the city attorney’s purview.
Pentz tours frequently around the world and has produced music with some of the industry’s biggest headliners, including Dua Lipa, Britney Spears, and Justin Bieber. He started his own record label, called Mad Decent, in 2006; two years later, he rose to fame when he produced the single “Paper Planes” with the artist M.I.A., his girlfriend at the time.
But throughout his successful career, Pentz has been dogged by allegations of inappropriate relationships with young women — particularly young Black and brown women. None of these allegations have been proven. In 2017, Pentz tweeted, “Low key sent my cv for r kelly sex cult membership,” before deleting the tweet 20 minutes later.
In July, the Baltimore Orioles canceled a postgame concert after two lawsuits accused Pentz of sexual assault. One was later dropped. He has denied the allegations. “I would love to come,” he tweeted to a disappointed fan, “but they listen to that garbage news instead.”
In October 2020, the rapper Azealia Banks spoke out about Pentz’s alleged behavior with her on the podcast Cheapy’s Two Cents. “I used to have sex with Diplo when I was 17. Diplo definitely found me on fucking Myspace,” she said. (Pentz would have been in his early 30s at the time.) “I always give him credit for fucking launching my career off, but yeah, I had to give him some teenage pussy to do it. He’s always been preying on young ethnic girls.” Banks’ representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
According to legal filings reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the woman who went to LA police claims Pentz initially reached out to her through private messages on Twitter when she was 17. She said the pair continued to talk and she had intercourse with him in March 2018, when she was 21.
She said that encounter was consensual, but she told police that in July 2019, after a performance in Las Vegas, Pentz held her down in his hotel suite and raped her. Las Vegas police declined to file charges against him for this alleged rape.
Medical records reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that days after the alleged incident, the woman tested positive for chlamydia. In court filings, she says that Pentz was her first, and at that time only, sexual partner.
Pentz’s lawyers acknowledged that the two had had a relationship but offered a radically different story about their sexual encounters. He said he first met the woman in March 2018, and his filings paint her as an obsessive fan who stalked him.
In April 2020, in a private communication with the woman reviewed by BuzzFeed News, Pentz implied that she was using an anonymous social media account to harass him.
“I don’t know what those accts are,” she wrote to the musician in one of several text messages denying the accusation. “Why would I be an obsessed ‘stalker’? You’ve invited me to your house so many times and I didn’t go lol.”
She continued to message Pentz. Eventually she shared her story in a series of tweets.
The video with sexually explicit images of her was posted three days later.
After the video was posted, attorney Lisa Bloom offered the woman legal assistance. Bloom has frequently represented women in high-profile sexual assault cases, including against Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein. She came under criticism in 2017 when it emerged she had helped craft Harvey Weinstein’s response to the initial allegations of sexual assault against him.
Bloom declined to comment for this story.
In court filings, the woman alleges that while she filmed some of the videos herself, Pentz was the only person she had shared them with, and that she believed he was responsible for the tweets. A state superior court judge granted the woman a temporary restraining order in November 2020, saying that Pentz could not “distribute any image of petitioner's intimate body part, or an image depicting petitioner engaged in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or an image of masturbation,” without her consent.
Three weeks later, on the day of the scheduled hearing for the woman’s restraining order, Pentz filed for a temporary restraining order against her, alleging that six months prior, in June, the woman had posted an image to social media that showed Pentz’s “naked body from behind, including his naked buttocks.” He also accused the woman of sending sexual videos of Pentz and an unidentified woman to the mother of Pentz’s children. “Petitioner feels that the public will have access to these sensitive photographs and videos, which will further exacerbate the damage, emotional distress and embarrassment Petitioner has already suffered,” his lawyers wrote.
A judge granted Pentz’s temporary restraining order as well. In a declaration as part of his petition, Pentz stated, “I have expressed very clearly to Respondent numerous times that I want nothing more to do with her, yet she continues to disregard my requests.”
But in January, none of the lawyers appeared at a hearing to discuss the restraining orders, court records show. A judge dismissed both of them.
By the end of April, attempts to resolve the matter privately had failed. Pentz’s attorneys filed a lawsuit for monetary damages, alleging that the woman had stalked him, trespassed by visiting his home without warning, and distributed an explicit image of him on her personal Instagram account. The lawsuit depicts her as a desperate fan who was angry that Pentz had ended their relationship.
That day, the woman attended a scheduled interview with police in Los Angeles, where both she and Pentz live, to discuss her allegations. She also later told police about the assault in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Police Department declined to comment on the status of that investigation.
In June, she filed her own lawsuit, seeking damages for alleged sexual battery, assault, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Her suit accuses Pentz of being “a middle-aged white man who targets very young Black women and girls for sexual assault.”
Pentz’s lawyers responded by denying “each and every allegation of the Complaint.”
The woman whose accusations are now at the heart of the Los Angeles city attorney’s review is no longer represented by Lisa Bloom. Her new lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
Pentz has continued to tour widely and frequently. He recently performed at Burning Man and the Elements Music & Arts Festival, and he is scheduled to appear at the Electric Daisy Carnival later this month. A documentary about Major Lazer, a DJ trio Pentz is a part of, is scheduled for release by Amazon Music on Oct. 6. ●
Correction: The woman at the center of the allegations said she first had intercourse with Diplo in April 2019, when she was 22, not in March 2018 when she was 21, as was stated in a previous version of this story.