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Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul who has been one of the most famous names in hip-hop for decades, is being sued in court by Cassie, an R&B singer once signed to his label, who accused Combs of rape and of repeated physical abuse over about a decade.
In the suit, filed in US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday (EST), Cassie, whose real name is Casandra Ventura — and who had long been Combs’ romantic partner — says that not long after she met him in 2005, when she was 19, he began a pattern of control and abuse that included plying her with drugs, beating her and forcing her to have sex with a succession of male prostitutes while he filmed the encounters. In 2018, the suit says, near the end of their relationship, Combs forced his way into her home and raped her.
Cassie Ventura, left, and Sean “Diddy” Combs arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story” in 2017, in Beverly Hills.Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
“After years in silence and darkness,” Ventura said in a statement, “I am finally ready to tell my story, and to speak up on behalf of myself and for the benefit of other women who face violence and abuse in their relationships.”
In response, a lawyer for Combs, Ben Brafman, said: “Mr Combs vehemently denies these offensive and outrageous allegations. For the past six months, Mr Combs has been subjected to Ms Ventura’s persistent demand of $30 million, under the threat of writing a damaging book about their relationship, which was unequivocally rejected as blatant blackmail. Despite withdrawing her initial threat, Ms Ventura has now resorted to filing a lawsuit riddled with baseless and outrageous lies, aiming to tarnish Mr Combs’s reputation and seeking a payday.”
Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for Ventura, said the parties had spoken before the suit was filed. “Mr Combs offered Ms Ventura eight figures to silence her and prevent the filing of this lawsuit,” he said. “She rejected his efforts.”
Ventura’s case is the latest in a series of sexual assault civil suits filed recently against prominent men in the music industry, including Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, executive L.A. Reid and Neil Portnow, the former head of the organisation behind the Grammy Awards. (Portnow has denied the accusation; Tyler and Reid have not responded.)
Diddy and Cassie attend the Met Gala in 2018.Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Combs, 54, founded Bad Boy in 1993 and became one of the primary figures in the commercialisation of hip-hop, working with stars like the Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige. His net worth has been estimated as high as $1 billion, and last year Forbes calculated Combs’ annual earnings at $90 million, attributing that amount largely to his former partnership in a liquor brand, Ciroc, that is owned by spirits giant Diageo.
Combs, who in his career has variously been known as Puff Daddy, Diddy and Love, may be the most famous music executive of his generation. But the suit depicts Combs as a violent person who, beyond repeatedly assaulting Ventura, asked her to carry his gun in her purse, and the suit suggests he was responsible for blowing up the car of a rival suitor. In one incident, the suit says, Combs dangled a friend of Ventura’s over a 17th-floor hotel balcony.
In naming additional defendants, the court papers assert that others who worked with Combs had helped him to control Ventura, at times by threatening her with retribution — like suppressing her music if she did not obey his orders — or by helping to conceal his behaviour. The suit, which names Combs and a number of his associated companies as defendants, seeks unspecified damages.
According to Ventura’s suit, she was swept into Combs’ jet-set lifestyle not long after meeting him and signing with Bad Boy, which released her debut album in 2006.
Prince William, Kanye West, Prince Harry and P Diddy pose for the media during a backstage party at Wembley Arena in north in 2007.Credit: AFP
But, the suit says, he soon began to assert an extraordinary level of command over her life. In addition to controlling her career, he paid for her car, apartments and clothing, and even had access to her personal medical records. According to the suit, the results from an MRI scan she had — for memory loss, possibly caused by drug use or by a beating she said she suffered from Combs — went directly to Combs.
In one incident described in the court papers, Ventura says that in early 2012, Combs grew so angry about her dating rapper Kid Cudi that he said he would blow up the rapper’s car. “Around that time,” the suit says, “Kid Cudi’s car exploded in his driveway.”
Through a spokesperson, Kid Cudi confirmed Ventura’s account. “This is all true,” he said.
A few years into Ventura’s relationship with Combs, the suit says, he began coercing her “to engage in a fantasy of his called ‘voyeurism,‘” in which she was directed to have sex with a succession of male prostitutes, while Combs watched, masturbated, took pictures and shot video.
Diddy and Cassie attend the Met Gala in 2017.Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
According to the suit, Combs called these encounters “freak offs,” which involved costumes, like masquerade masks and lingerie. They continued for years, taking place at high-end hotels across the United States and in Combs’ homes. The suit says that he instructed Ventura to search the websites of escort services to procure male sex workers.
Drugs were supplied at these events, which Ventura’s suit says she took because they “allowed her to disassociate during these horrific encounters.”
According to the suit, Ventura would delete videos from these incidents that had been shot on her phone, but Combs told her he still had access to those videos and on a flight once made her watch a video she thought she had deleted.
The suit says that as a result of these sexual encounters in different cities, Ventura was a victim of sex trafficking. The suit also accuses Combs of sexual battery, sexual assault and violations of New York City’s gender-motivated violence law.
Ventura’s suit includes several accounts of her unsuccessful attempts to escape Combs’ control.
In one example, the suit says that during a “freak off” at a Los Angeles hotel in 2016, an intoxicated Combs punched Ventura in the face, giving her a black eye. He fell asleep, and she tried to leave the room, but Combs woke up and followed her into the hallway, where he threw glass vases at her, sending glass shattering throughout the corridor, according to the court filing. The hotel’s security cameras captured that incident, but the suit says Combs paid the hotel $50,000 for the footage.
The court filing says that in 2018, after Combs and Ventura met for dinner, he forced himself into her apartment and raped her while she “repeatedly said ‘no’ and tried to push him away.” After that, the suit says, she left him for good. Ventura married Alex Fine, a personal trainer, the following year and now has two young children. According to the complaint, her association with Bad Boy ended in 2019.
Ventura’s case, like other recent sexual assault lawsuits, is being brought under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that allows people who say they were victims of sexual abuse to file civil suits after the statute of limitations has expired. The one-year window to bring cases under this law ends next week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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