Zodiac Sign · May 21, 2024

The release of a disturbing surveillance video from 2016, made public on Friday, depicts rapper-mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs kicking, dragging, and hurling an object at his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura in the corridors of a luxury hotel. This revelation has intensified the public scrutiny facing Diddy, reaching a new level of outrage and condemnation.

The disturbing video, which CNN obtained and published, appears to validate certain allegations outlined in Ventura's lawsuit against Combs from November. CNN reports that the footage was recorded on March 5, 2016, at a now-closed InterContinental hotel in Los Angeles.

The video depicts Ventura, known as the singer Cassie, walking down a hallway toward elevators, with Combs chasing after her in a towel. He throws her to the ground, repeatedly kicks her, and then tries to drag her down the hallway, presumably toward their room, though she manages to free herself. Later, he throws a vase at Ventura.

On Sunday, Combs took to Instagram to share a one-minute apology, acknowledging that he was the individual captured in the footage. "My behavior in that video is inexcusable," he stated. "I take full responsibility for my actions in that video. I was disgusted then when I did it, and I’m disgusted now." Combs mentioned seeking therapy and rehabilitation but did not address Ventura specifically.

In her lawsuit, Ventura, who was in a relationship with Combs and signed to his label, accused him of abuse, coercing her into engaging in sexual acts with male sex workers while he filmed, and later raping her. The lawsuit also detailed allegations regarding a 2016 incident at the InterContinental hotel.

In a statement issued when the lawsuit was filed, Combs's attorney asserted, "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." However, the recent release of the video and Combs's subsequent apology provide a degree of corroboration to at least some of the accusations leveled against the rapper.

Meredith Firetog, a partner at Wigdor LLP, the firm representing Ventura, issued a statement in response to Diddy's apology video over the weekend. In part, the statement reads: "Combs’ most recent statement is more about himself than the many people he has hurt... That he was only compelled to 'apologize' once his repeated denials were proven false shows his pathetic desperation, and no one will be swayed by his disingenuous words."

Ventura's case, settled just one day after it was filed, triggered a wave of similar lawsuits, many of which contain harrowing and distressing accounts. Plaintiffs allege that Diddy — known by his birth name Sean Combs, as well as by the monikers Puff Daddy, Puffy, and Love — sexually assaulted them and, in certain instances, trafficked them by pressuring them into engaging in sexual acts with other men. Collectively, these cases have refocused public attention on longstanding accusations of violence against Combs, prompting some brands to sever ties with him and causing Hulu to cancel his forthcoming reality show.

Speculation surrounding the accusations intensified as federal authorities raided homes in Los Angeles and Miami Beach connected to Diddy. These raids were disclosed to be part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of sex trafficking.

Combs has vehemently denied the allegations, stating in a December statement, "I did not commit any of the terrible acts being alleged. I will vigorously defend my reputation, my family, and the truth."

During the 1990s and 2000s, Diddy held significant influence, not only in hip-hop but also across the broader realms of business and entertainment. However, in recent months, numerous individuals have filed lawsuits against him, alleging that he exploited his influence and wealth to sexually victimize and, in some instances, traffic them, all while evading consequences for decades.

The lawsuits have garnered significant public attention, partly due to Combs' influential status as an executive and gatekeeper in both the music and fashion industries. Additionally, Combs has long been the subject of allegations of violence, including previous arrests. These cases mark some of the first major allegations in years against a prominent figure in the music industry, an industry that many believe has failed to address abuses of power, even during the height of the Me Too movement. Combs is just one of several powerful individuals whose alleged past behavior is now being revisited with renewed and more critical scrutiny. This reassessment is partly enabled by landmark New York laws that allow individuals alleging sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits beyond the time frame specified by the statute of limitations.

Certainly, Combs is now being likened to R. Kelly, with vocal critic 50 Cent announcing plans to produce a series about Combs akin to the impactful docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, with proceeds intended to support assault survivors.

Dream Hampton, the producer of Surviving R. Kelly, stated to the Times late last year that accountability was catching up with the Bad Boy founder. "Puff is done," she remarked.

The lawsuits against Combs underscore that despite recent backlash, the Me Too movement and the ensuing legal and cultural shifts have left a lasting impact. While allegations of sexual assault and harassment may not dominate daily headlines as they did in 2017, the process of accountability continues, and no industry is likely to remain insulated indefinitely.

Diddy established a vast empire spanning multiple industries.

Combs, a producer and rapper, ascended to become a influential figure in music, media, and fashion. He founded Bad Boy Records in New York in 1993, during his early twenties, and quickly signed Notorious B.I.G., whose two albums played a pivotal role in shaping New York hip-hop during that era. Bad Boy evolved into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, with Combs producing iconic '90s acts ranging from Jodeci to Mary J. Blige. Following Biggie's tragic death in 1997, Combs released the Grammy-winning tribute track "I'll Be Missing You," which, as noted by Michael Specter of the New Yorker, "helped inaugurate a commercial boom in hip-hop that lasted until the end of the nineties."

Combs was also among the pioneers in merging the realms of hip-hop, business, and luxury. His fashion brand, Sean John, established in 1998, gained renown for its high-end menswear. He endorsed vodka and tequila brands and hosted exclusive white parties in the Hamptons, attracting guests like Martha Stewart. While not as central a figure as he once was in the '90s, Combs remains a wealthy and influential celebrity. Last fall, within a few weeks, he hosted a joint album release and birthday celebration attended by luminaries such as Naomi Campbell and Janet Jackson, performed to a sold-out audience in London, and made a surprise $1 million donation at the homecoming event for his alma mater, Howard University.

As Combs built his empire, he faced allegations of multiple acts of violence. In 1999, he was arrested for assaulting another executive with a chair, a phone, and a champagne bottle. He was fined and required to attend anger management classes, as reported by the New Yorker. That same year, he was implicated in a shooting incident at a Manhattan club while attending a party with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. Witnesses claimed to have seen him with a gun, but he was ultimately acquitted following a highly publicized trial.

Combs has also faced accusations of making threats and committing acts of violence against women. In a 2019 interview, for instance, his ex-girlfriend Gina Huynh alleged that he had thrown a shoe at her and dragged her by the hair. However, these reports did not garner widespread public attention until recently.

Singer Cassie filed suit against Diddy in November

In November, Cassie, whose real name is Casandra Ventura, sued Combs, alleging sexual assault and sex trafficking. In the suit, first reported by the New York Times, Ventura said she had experienced years of abuse from Combs, starting soon after she met him in 2005, when she was 19. She said that he beat her repeatedly, at one point kicking her in the face, and that later, in 2018, he raped her. She also said he trafficked her by coercing her to have sex with sex workers in different cities while he filmed and masturbated. She tried to delete the photos and videos afterward, but Combs retained access, she said in the suit, at one point making her watch a video she thought she had deleted.

Ventura's lawsuit also alleged that Combs and his associates leveraged his power and wealth to intimidate her into silence and compliance. She claimed that Combs' employees threatened to sabotage her music career if she dared to speak out against him. In a particularly alarming revelation, Ventura stated that Combs threatened to detonate rapper Kid Cudi's car because Cudi was dating her; subsequently, the car exploded. A spokesperson for Kid Cudi confirmed the incident to the Times, stating, "This is all true."

Through his lawyer, Ben Brafman, Combs accused Ventura of blackmail. "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," Brafman stated. He also alleged that Ventura lied in her lawsuit in pursuit of financial gain. In response, Ventura's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, refuted these claims, asserting that Combs had actually offered money to Ventura in exchange for her silence, an offer which she declined.

Ventura's lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum within a mere day. The singer expressed that she chose to resolve the matter amicably on terms that allowed her to retain a degree of control.

Ventura's decision to step forward publicly acted as a catalyst, leading to an influx of reports detailing instances of assault and abuse.

Following Ventura's public allegations, three additional women filed lawsuits against Combs. In the second suit, Joi Dickerson-Neal alleges that he drugged and raped her in 1991. In the third suit, Liza Gardner claims that in 1990, he coerced her into sex and choked her, causing her to lose consciousness. Jonathan Davis, a lawyer representing Combs, stated in a statement to the Times that Combs denies these allegations too, asserting, "Because of Mr. Combs’s fame and success, he is an easy target for accusers who attempt to smear him."

Additional individuals have come forward alleging harm by Diddy. Three women filed lawsuits against Combs. In the second suit, Joi Dickerson-Neal claims he drugged and raped her in 1991. In the third, Liza Gardner alleges that in 1990, he coerced her into sex and choked her until she lost consciousness. Jonathan Davis, a lawyer for Combs, denied these allegations, stating, “Because of Mr. Combs’s fame and success, he is an easy target for accusers who attempt to smear him.”

In the fourth suit, a woman known as Jane Doe alleges that, as a junior in high school, she met then-Bad Boy president Harve Pierre and another associate in Detroit. They persuaded her to fly on their private jet to New York, where they and the rapper provided her with drugs and alcohol before violently raping her.

“Ms. Doe has lived with her memories of this fateful night for 20 years, during which time she has suffered extreme emotional distress that has impacted nearly every aspect of her life and personal relationships,” the suit says. “Given the brave women who have come forward against Ms. Combs and Mr. Pierre in recent weeks, Ms. Doe is doing the same.”

In response, Combs released a statement denying all reports of violence, calling them “sickening allegations” made “by individuals looking for a quick payday.” Pierre also denied the allegations, stating, “I have never participated in, witnessed, nor heard of anything like this, ever.”

The women came forward last year due to two New York laws, one of which enabled E. Jean Carroll’s successful lawsuit against Donald Trump for sexual abuse and defamation. These laws opened limited windows for filing civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, even if the statute of limitations had passed. One window closed in late November, prompting the flurry of complaints.

While the majority of the suits describe past behavior, a February filing by Rodney Jones Jr., known as Lil Rod, alleges that Combs subjected him to unwanted touching and attempted to “groom” him during their work together in 2022 and 2023. Jones claims that at a party in 2023, he was forced to consume tequila mixed with drugs and later woke up “naked with a sex worker sleeping next to him.” He further alleges that Combs coerced him into soliciting sex workers and performing sexual acts with them.

Combs has denied Jones’s allegations. Shawn Holley, a lawyer for Combs, stated, “We have overwhelming, indisputable proof that his claims are complete lies,” and called Jones “nothing more than a liar who filed a $30 million lawsuit shamelessly looking for an undeserved payday.”

In March, raids in Los Angeles and Miami Beach indicated a potential criminal investigation. The raids on homes linked to the rapper were part of an inquiry by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and agents with the Department of Homeland Security. While details were limited, the raids suggest a new phase in the Combs case, with law enforcement sources also indicating they were related to sex trafficking allegations.

Despite rumors of him leaving the country, Combs was later seen at the Miami-Opa Locka airport. The investigations in Los Angeles and Miami Beach have once again placed the rapper under intense public scrutiny.

Is this the music industry’s Me Too moment?

The increasing number of reports, along with their disturbing details, has prompted companies and influential figures in media and business to distance themselves from the rapper. Diageo, the beverage brand that partnered with Combs on vodka and tequila, removed his image from its website. Capital Preparatory Schools, a New York charter school network that Combs helped expand, posted a statement on the school’s website announcing the termination of ties with him (though the statement was later removed). Combs also stepped down as chair of Revolt, a TV network he co-founded in 2013.

The cases against Combs are emerging amidst other accusations against prominent figures in the music industry. In November, a woman filed a lawsuit against Neil Portnow, the former head of the Grammy Awards, alleging that he drugged and raped her in 2018. During the same month, a former employee sued music executive L.A. “Babyface” Reid, accusing him of sexual assault and harassment, which she claimed caused irreversible harm to her career in the music industry.

These allegations arise at a time when Ye, a music and fashion mogul whose career shares parallels with Diddy’s, has faced repercussions, losing several brand partnerships due to public antisemitic and racist statements as well as allegations of verbal abuse and harassment spanning years. These actions may have been previously overlooked due to the lucrative partnerships he offered to brands.

While the Me Too movement prompted significant reckonings around sexual assault and harassment in various industries from film to hospitality in 2017 and 2018, many felt that the music industry's major players remained relatively unscathed. For instance, R. Kelly faced minimal consequences until the widely watched 2019 docuseries by Hampton brought renewed attention to the allegations against him—despite numerous accusations of sexual contact with minors, several lawsuits, and a 2008 criminal trial related to child sexual abuse material. Some argued that Kelly received leniency for so long because the women reporting abuse were Black. In 2021, he was convicted of sex trafficking and sentenced to 30 years in prison; an additional 20-year sentence was added the following year, with all but one year to be served concurrently with the initial sentence.

In 2017, three women publicly accused another influential figure in the music industry, Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons, of rape. Similar to Kelly, Simmons became the focus of a documentary addressing the allegations, although he has not faced charges.

Now, Ventura and other individuals filing lawsuits are detailing instances of violent rape, intimidation, and abuse by one of the music industry's biggest names, someone who epitomized the fusion of hip-hop into mainstream and high-end culture. During his prime, Combs was an emblem of power and influence in music, fashion, and business, and these lawsuits signal a newfound readiness to hold that power accountable.

They also underscore the enduring changes brought about by the Me Too movement, including its impact on law and policy and its provision of a platform for survivors of assault to come forward and share their experiences.

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