Celebrities, Politicians Face Sexual-Abuse Suits Ahead of NY Law Expiration
A flurry of high-profile sexual-abuse lawsuits were filed in New York this week to beat the expiration of a state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on civil abuse and harassment claims, no matter how old.
The list of defendants includes New York Mayor Eric Adams, music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and rock legend Axl Rose, all of whom could face jury trials if the claims against them aren’t dismissed or settled.
The Adult Survivors Act, passed by New York lawmakers in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, took effect Nov. 24, 2022, and expired Thursday.
“The Adult Survivors Act has enabled thousands of survivors to pursue justice that was previously unavailable to them,” said Susan Crumiller, whose firm has handled several ASA cases. “But the flood of last minute cases shows how desperately we need a reopened window. Many people are just learning about the Act.”
The first person sued under the law — former President Donald Trump — was held liable by a Manhattan jury in May for sexually abusing New York author E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and ordered to pay $5 million in damages, showing how the statute can be successfully used in court even when the claims are decades old.
Despite that early win, most cases under the law are in the early stages. Here are some of the defendants in suits filed this week:
A $5 million lawsuit filed Nov. 22 by a woman who alleges she was assaulted by the Democratic politician in 1993, when they were both working for the City of New York.
A two-page summons gives a bare-bones outline of the complaint, saying it alleges “sexual assault, battery and employment discrimination.”
“The claims brought here allege intentional and negligent acts and omissions for physical, psychological, and other injuries suffered as a result of conduct that would constitute sexual offenses,” according to the suit.
Adams denied the allegations.
“The mayor does not know who this person is. If they ever met, he doesn’t recall it,” according to a spokesperson for Adams. “But he would never do anything to physically harm another person and vigorously denies any such claim.”
A suit filed Nov. 22 by Cuomo’s former executive assistant, Brittany Commisso, accuses the former governor of groping her breast and buttocks. Commisso claims that she suffered “substantial personal injuries and economic loss” as a result of the alleged abuse, as well as gender discrimination and retaliation.
“The continuous sexual harassment by defendant Cuomo included unwelcome sexual advances, sexualized comments about appearance and personal matters, relations, their dating, their sex life, and her marriage, assignment of humiliating and demeaning tasks, hugs, kisses, sexual touching of the buttocks, and forcible touching of the breast,” according to the suit.
Commisso, formerly identified only as “executive assistant #1” in a damning report on Cuomo’s conduct by the state attorney general, went public with her allegations more than two years ago in an interview with CBS News and the Albany Times Union. Cuomo has strenuously denied her allegations, as well as similar claims made by other women.
“Ms. Commisso’s claims are provably false, which is why the Albany District Attorney dismissed the case two years ago after a thorough investigation,” a spokeswoman for Cuomo said in a statement. “Ms. Commisso’s transparent attempt at a cash grab will fail.”
A suit filed on Thanksgiving Day alleges Combs drugged and raped a Syracuse University student during a date in 1991. The complaint by Joi Dickerson-Neal claims she suffered “substantial and lifetime injuries” from the assault, which she alleges was videotaped by Combs and shown to other men.
“The sexual assault and public exposure of it, caused her to suffer overwhelming feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, violation, and constant apprehension about who all viewed it,” according to the complaint.
Dickerson-Neal claims the alleged assault sent her life into a tailspin, forcing her to seek medical help for depression and impeding her ability to finish college as Combs rose to fame and fortune.
Another lawsuit against Combs under the Adult Survivors Act was filed the same day by an anonymous plaintiff. The court docket says the complaint was “returned for correction” and isn’t yet available. The new complaints were filed about a week after Combs settled similar claims by a former girlfriend, Casandra Ventura.
A spokesperson for Combs denied the allegations, describing the Dickerson-Neal suit as “an example of how a well-intentioned law can be turned on its head.”
The “32-year-old story is made up and not credible,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Mr. Combs never assaulted her, and she implicates companies that did not exist.”
Similarly, the Jane Doe allegations are “are fabricated claims falsely alleging misconduct from over 30 years ago and filed at the last minute,” the spokesperson said.
A suit filed Nov. 22 by California actress and model Sheila Kennedy alleges she was assaulted by Rose in 1989, when the Guns N’ Roses singer “was at the peak of his commercial success.” According to the complaint, Rose “used his fame, status, and power as a celebrity and performer in the music industry to gain access to manipulate, control, and violently sexually assault Kennedy.”
The lawsuit outlines previous allegations of wrongdoing against Rose and criticizes his record label, Geffen Records, for celebrating Rose’s “bad boy” image despite those claims.
The suit also notes that the cover for Guns N’ Roses album “Appetite for Destruction” features “a cartoon drawing of a battered young woman with underwear pulled down around her legs.”
Alan Gutman, Rose’s lawyer, released a statement Wednesday, saying the incident “never happened,” and described the claims as “fictional.”
A suit filed by South African model Caron Bernstein alleges Richardson forced her into oral sex at his studio in 2003 while they were working on a fragrance advertising campaign. He allegedly assaulted her in the presence of several male agents, employees and models. According to the complaint, Richardson photographed himself assaulting Bernstein and then published the photos without her consent in his 2006 book “Kibosh,” as well as at art shows and online.
A separate suit by Spanish model Minerva Portillo accuses Richardson of two sexual assaults in 2004. Portillo, who was booked by Trump Model Management for a photo shoot in Richardson’s New York studio, alleges she was assaulted in a similar manner to Bernstein on multiple days.
According to the complaint, Richardson displayed photos of the assault at a New York art exhibit titled “Terry Richardson: Terryworld,” and later published the photos in “Kibosh.” Portillo claims Richardson forced her to sign a release that falsely stated the photographs did “not depict actual sexually explicit conduct.”
Richardson’s agent and studio didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.
Top photo: Eric Adams, mayor of New York, during an event at 270 Park Avenue, JPMorgan Chase’s new global headquarters building, in New York, US, on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. The event celebrated local iron workers raising the final steel beam that completes framing for JPMorgan Chases new 1,388-foot global headquarters building that will be home to about 14,000 employees, according to the firm.
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