The video of Diddy appearing to attack singer Cassie and all the ...

17 May 2024

With a violent 2016 surveillance video made public on Friday appearing to show rapper-mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs kicking, dragging, and throwing an object at his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura in the hallways of a luxury hotel, the public reckoning facing Diddy is reaching a new boiling point.

Diddy - Figure 1
Photo Vox

The graphic video, obtained and published by CNN, seems to confirm some details alleged in Ventura’s November lawsuit against Combs. According to CNN, the footage was filmed on March 5, 2016, at a now-shuttered InterContinental hotel in Los Angeles.

The tape appears to show Ventura, a singer who performs under the name Cassie, walking down a hallway toward elevators, and Combs running after her in a towel. He throws her to the ground and repeatedly kicks her, and then attempts to drag her down the hallway, presumably back to their room, though she frees herself. Later, he appears to throw a vase at Ventura.

In her lawsuit, Ventura, who dated Combs and was signed to his label, alleged that he abused her, urged her to have sex with male sex workers while he filmed, and that he later raped her. That lawsuit included allegations of a 2016 incident at the InterContinental hotel.

In a statement at the time of the suit, Combs’s attorney responded that, “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.” But the publication of the video this week adds a layer of seeming corroboration to at least some of the accusations made against the rapper.

Ventura’s case, settled one day after it was filed, set off a torrent of similar lawsuits, several of which include brutal and disturbing details. Plaintiffs state that Diddy — whose birth name is Sean Combs and who has also publicly gone by Puff Daddy, Puffy, and Love — raped them and, in some cases, trafficked them by coercing them to engage in sex with other men. Together, the cases have redirected public attention toward longstanding allegations of violence against Combs, leading some brands to cut ties with him and Hulu to scrap his upcoming reality show.

Speculation around the accusations escalated as homes in Los Angeles and Miami Beach linked to Diddy were raided by federal authorities, who revealed that the raids were linked to an ongoing investigation into sex trafficking allegations.

Combs has denied the allegations, saying in a December statement, “I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

Especially in the 1990s and 2000s, Diddy was a figure of enormous power, not just in hip-hop but in the business and entertainment worlds writ large. In recent months, however, multiple people have sued him, saying he used that influence and wealth to sexually victimize and, in some cases, traffic them, while avoiding consequences for decades.

The cases have captured the public’s attention in part because Combs was such an influential executive and gatekeeper in music and fashion, yet one who had long been the subject of allegations of violence, including arrests. They are among the first major allegations in years against a major figure in the music industry, which many feel has failed to reckon with abuses of power, even at the height of the Me Too movement. Combs is just one of many powerful men who have evaded scrutiny but whose alleged past conduct is being revisited with fresh and more critical eyes — in some cases thanks to the landmark New York laws that have allowed people alleging sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits past the time period specified by the statute of limitations.

Indeed, Combs is now drawing comparisons to R. Kelly, with frequent critic 50 Cent announcing that he will produce a series about Combs in the style of the bombshell docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, with the proceeds going to assault survivors.

Dream Hampton, producer of Surviving R. Kelly, told the Times late last year that an accounting was arriving for the Bad Boy founder. “Puff is done,” she said.

The suits against Combs also show that despite recent backlash, the Me Too movement and the legal and cultural changes that came with it have had an enduring impact. Even if allegations of sexual assault and harassment do not make daily headlines the way they did in 2017, the reckoning is ongoing — and no industry is likely to remain immune forever.

Diddy built an empire across multiple businesses

Combs is a producer and rapper who rose to be an influential figure across music, media, and fashion. He started Bad Boy Records in New York in 1993, when he was in his early 20s, and soon signed Notorious B.I.G., whose two albums helped define New York hip-hop in that era. Bad Boy grew into a multimillion-dollar business, and Combs produced iconic ’90s acts from Jodeci to Mary J. Blige. When Biggie was killed in 1997, Combs released a Grammy-winning tribute, “I’ll Be Missing You,” which “helped inaugurate a commercial boom in hip-hop that lasted until the end of the nineties,” according to Michael Specter of the New Yorker.

Diddy - Figure 2
Photo Vox

Combs was also one of the first to blend the worlds of hip-hop, business, and luxury. His fashion label, Sean John, founded in 1998, became known for high-end menswear. He promoted brands of vodka and tequila and hosted exclusive white parties in the Hamptons with guests like Martha Stewart. Though no longer as central a figure as he was in the ’90s, Combs remains a rich and well-connected celebrity: Within a span of weeks last fall, he held a joint album release and birthday party attended by stars such as Naomi Campbell and Janet Jackson, performed for a sold-out crowd in London, and appeared at the homecoming celebration for his alma mater, Howard University, where he made a surprise $1 million donation.

Diddy pictured at a performance in London in November. Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Sean “Diddy” Combs

As Combs built his empire, however, he was accused of multiple acts of violence. In 1999, he was arrested for beating another executive with a chair, a phone, and a champagne bottle; he had to pay a fine and take an anger management class, according to the New Yorker. The same year, he was involved in a shooting at a club in Manhattan, where he was attending a party with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez; witnesses said they saw him with a gun, but he was ultimately acquitted after a public, much-watched trial.

He has also been accused of threats and violence against women. In a 2019 interview, for example, his ex-girlfriend Gina Huynh said he had thrown a shoe at her and dragged her by the hair. But these reports have not received mainstream public attention — until now.

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 suit also said that Combs and his associates used his power and wealth to intimidate her into silence and compliance, with his employees threatening to damage her music career if she spoke out against him. In one particularly shocking detail, Ventura said Combs threatened to blow up the rapper Kid Cudi’s car because Cudi and Ventura were dating; the car later exploded. “This is all true,” a spokesperson for Kid Cudi told the Times of the car exploding.

Singer Cassie, pictured in 2018 in Los Angeles, sued Combs in a case made possible by New York laws including the Adult Survivors Act, which opened a one-year window to file civil lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse, even if the statute of limitations had expired. Leon Bennett/Getty Images

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 said in the statement, which also accused Ventura of lying in her lawsuit to seek a “payday.” Ventura’s lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said Combs had actually offered Ventura money for her silence, which she had declined.

Ventura’s suit was settled for an undisclosed amount within a single day. The singer stated that she had “decided to resolve this matter amicably on terms that I have some level of control.”

But Ventura’s decision to come forward publicly opened the floodgates, and more reports of assault and abuse began pouring out.

Other people say Diddy harmed them

Three other women soon filed suit against Combs. In the second suit, Joi Dickerson-Neal says he drugged and raped her in 1991. In the third, Liza Gardner says that in 1990, he coerced her into sex and choked her, causing her to lose consciousness. Jonathan Davis, a lawyer for Combs, said in a statement to the Times that Combs denied these allegations as well: “Because of Mr. Combs’s fame and success, he is an easy target for accusers who attempt to smear him.”

Diddy - Figure 3
Photo Vox

In the fourth suit, the woman identified as Jane Doe says she was a junior in high school when she met then-Bad Boy president Harve Pierre and another Combs associate in Detroit. They convinced her to fly on their jet to New York, the suit says, where they and the rapper gave her drugs and alcohol and then violently raped 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 to that suit, Combs released a statement denying all reports of violence, calling them “sickening allegations” made “by individuals looking for a quick payday.” Pierre has also denied the allegations, saying in a statement to TMZ, “I have never participated in, witnessed, nor heard of anything like this, ever.”

The women came forward last year because two New York laws — one of which paved the way for E. Jean Carroll’s successful lawsuit against Donald Trump for sexual abuse and defamation — opened limited windows of time in which people can file civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, even if the statute of limitations has passed. One of those windows closed in late November, explaining the flurry of complaints.

While the suits mostly describe behavior the plaintiffs say happened years ago, a February filing by Rodney Jones Jr., known as Lil Rod, says that Combs subjected him to unwanted touching and attempted to “groom” him when they worked together on The Love Album: Off the Grid in 2022 and 2023. Jones says that at a party in 2023, he was forced to drink tequila mixed with drugs, then woke up “naked with a sex worker sleeping next to him.” He says that Combs offered money and threatened violence to get him to solicit sex workers and perform sex acts with them.

Combs has denied Jones’s allegations. In a statement, Shawn Holley, a lawyer for Combs, said, “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 the wake of these civil lawsuits, raids in Los Angeles and Miami Beach in March have pointed to an apparent criminal investigation. According to the Times, the raids on homes connected 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. Few details were available in the immediate aftermath, and lawyers for Combs have not yet responded to requests for comment from Vox or the Times. However, the raids suggest a potential new level in the Combs case, with law enforcement sources also telling the Los Angeles Times they were linked to sex trafficking allegations.

Combs was rumored to have left the country on Monday after his private plane traveled to Antigua, but he was later spotted in the Miami-Opa Locka airport. Regardless of his whereabouts, 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 growing number of reports, and their chilling details, have led companies and influential people in media and business to distance themselves from the rapper. Diageo, the beverage brand with which Combs partnered on vodka and tequila, removed his image from its website. Capital Preparatory Schools, a New York charter school network Combs helped expand, posted a statement on the school’s website saying it was cutting ties with him (though the statement was later removed). Combs also stepped aside as chair of Revolt, a TV network he helped start in 2013.

The cases against Combs are coming to light against a backdrop of other accusations against major figures in music. In November, a woman sued Neil Portnow, former head of the Grammy Awards, saying he had drugged and raped her in 2018. The same month, a former employee sued music executive L.A. “Babyface” Reid, saying he sexually assaulted and harassed her, leading to irrevocable damage to her career in the music industry.

They also occur at a time when Ye, a music and fashion mogul whose career has parallels with Diddy’s, has lost many of his brand partnerships after public antisemitic and racist statements as well as what many say was a years-long pattern of verbal abuse and harassment, which may have been kept quiet in part because partnering with him was so lucrative for brands.

While the Me Too movement forced reckonings around sexual assault and harassment in industries from film to other media to restaurants in 2017 and 2018, many in the music business felt that its biggest players were relatively unscathed. R. Kelly, for example, faced few consequences until Hampton’s widely watched 2019 docuseries drew renewed attention to the accusations — despite repeated allegations that he’d had sexual contact with underage girls, several lawsuits, and even a 2008 criminal trial over child sexual abuse material. Many argued that the reason Kelly was given a pass for so long was that the women coming forward to report abuse by him were Black. In 2021, he was convicted of sex trafficking and sentenced to 30 years in prison; a second 20-year sentence was added the following year, with all but one year to be served concurrently with the first sentence.

Three women stated publicly in 2017 that another influential music industry figure, Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons, had raped them. Like Kelly, he was the subject of a documentary focusing on the allegations, though he has not faced charges.

Now, Ventura and the other people filing suit are reporting violent rape, intimidation, and abuse by one of the biggest names in music, someone who symbolized the movement of hip-hop into both mainstream and high-end culture. Combs in his heyday was an icon of power and influence in music, fashion, and business, and the lawsuits represent a new willingness to call that power to account.

They also serve as a reminder that the Me Too movement has made enduring changes, including influencing law and policy and creating a road map for survivors of assault to come forward and share their stories.

Update, May 17, 3:05 pm ET: This story, originally published on December 20, 2023, has been updated to reflect recent developments, including the publication of a video appearing to show Sean “Diddy” Combs kicking and dragging singer Cassie Ventura.






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