Music icon Russell Simmons denies sex assault allegations

Charges of sexual assault that led Queens music mogul Russell Simmons to step back from his record company are now being investigated by the NYPD.
By Naeisha Rose

Music mogul Russell Simmons, a Hollis native, continues to deny all accusations that he committed rape and sexual assault, allegations that prompted the New York Police Department to open an investigation last week.

Four women have accused Simmons of rape, and several others allege that he sexually harassed them, groped them or tried to rape them. The accusations range from the early 1980s to 2016.

Simmons, 60, is the founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings, and he recently stepped down from his Rush Communications business and Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which donated to nonprofit groups and schools throughout Queens. His foundation supported schools like PS 171 in Long Island City and MS 226 in South Ozone Park. The Rush Gallery School sends art teachers from his organization to help art galleries at the schools, according to rushphilanthropic.org.

The day before the investigation was opened, Simmons vehemently denied the accusations in a statement to The New York Times, referring to “grievances” by “former business, creative and romantic partners.”

“The presumption of innocent until proven guilty must not be replaced by ‘Guilty by Accusation,’” Simmons said.

After the police announced their investigation, Simmons started a #NotMe campaign on the social media platform Instagram. He said his campaign was not a counter to the #MeToo movement, which was started to help people come forward with their personal experience of rape, sexual harassment and assault, but as a way to defend himself.

“It’s just a statement about my innocence,” he said.

Before the investigation was begun, six women had leveled accusations against Simmons. That number has grown to about a dozen.

He was accused of a 1983 rape by Sheri Hines of the hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies. He was also accused of rapes in the 1990s by singer Tina Baker, whom he managed in the 1980s; Drew Dixon, a music executive at Def Jam Recordings; and music journalist Toni Sallie. The women made their accusations in statements to The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Some accusers have said that attacks took place after Simmons claimed to have found spiritual enlightenment through the practice of yoga, which he ascribed to in the mid-1990s. He opened a yoga studio in 2016.

Natashia Williams-Blach, an actress who accused Simmons of trying to force her to perform oral sex in 1996, when she was 18, told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s a part of his psyche that proclaims and believes that there is something very righteous about how he lives his life, and it’s almost like the truest form of delusion.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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