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For about a year, Russell Simmons has been facing allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women. This month, the co-founder of Def Jam made a declaration under penalty of perjury in a civil suit brought by an anonymous Jane Doe.
“I am horrified at the false allegations made against me in the Complaint,” he stated. “I do not know and I have never heard of Plaintiff. Her allegation that I committed sexual battery and threatened to rape her son is absurd, shameful, and untrue. I have never had non-consensual sex with Plaintiff or anyone else.”
The declaration became public this week after Simmons convinced a judge to hold a summary judgment hearing on Aug. 15, six months earlier than originally scheduled.
The fact that Simmons is making a summary judgment motion and has offered a declaration comes after some goading from the plaintiff’s attorney, Douglas Mastroianni.
Mastroianni’s client originally sued in March 2018. As alleged in the complaint, Jane Doe attended a rap concert when Simmons approached her with an invitation to come backstage with her son. They did. Later, she recalls attending an afterparty at a nightclub when Simmons allegedly asked her to accompany him to a hotel room so that he could retrieve something. Simmons then made threats and threw her on the bed and raped her.
The lawsuit included a demand for $10 million in punitive damages but omitted one key detail — the date, or at least an approximation, of when the alleged rape had occurred.
Nevertheless, in follow-up correspondence between attorneys for the parties, it was revealed that the rape was alleged to have happened in 1988.
Since then, Simmons’ attorney Patricia Glaser has been calling for an end to the suit based on a two-year statute of limitations for a sexual battery claim. In response, the plaintiff has been attempting to exploit Code of Civil Procedure Section 351, which tolls the statute of limitations when a defendant is physically outside of California. This “absentee tolling” rule essentially means the deadline to file suit gets paused when a defendant is away.
The problem with “absentee tolling,” at least in the civil law context, is that many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have held that such a rule can place an undue burden on interstate commerce and therefore violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
That’s a point that Simmons’ attorneys have attempted to make at earlier stages of this litigation.
But Mastroianni has put up a fight.
In opposition to a motion for sanctions, Mastroianni complained in April that Simmons was attempting to exploit a procedural loophole to avoid having to actually deny the sexual assault.
Simmons “seeks both legal protection for the rape he doesn’t deny and to collect nearly $40,000 from the plaintiff,” wrote Mastroianni. “In fact, there is no evidence in the record of when defendant raped the plaintiff. The reason for this obvious: Defendant would have to submit a declaration stating when he met plaintiff, thus, admitting that they had met. He would then be expected to deny that he sexually assaulted plaintiff which would subject him to perjury charges and probably could not be ethically submitted by his lawyer to the court.”
The Jane Doe lawyer also suggested that Simmons could always file a motion for summary judgment.
After Los Angeles Superior Court judge Marc Gross denied the bid for sanctions (noting a lack of evidence regarding Simmons’ residence and travel, as well as some dubiousness about the unconstitutionality of Section 351), Simmons took the bait.
He has now filed that declaration as well as a motion for summary judgment, which begins by calling Jane Doe’s story a “false and salacious fiction… nothing more than a calculated scheme by Plaintiff to tell a lie so big and so scandalous that it would attract news coverage (as it has) in the hopes that Mr. Simmons would pay her money to make it disappear (as he has not, and will not).”
Simmons’ summary judgment memo reiterates the argument that Jane Doe can’t sustain a sexual battery claim based on statute of limitations. The unconstitutionality of California’s “absentee tolling” rule is reprised, and if that doesn’t work, Simmons also submits evidence that he was physically present as a resident in California in the late 1990s and from 2012 to 2018.
The court papers also takes shots at Jane Doe.
According to Simmons, she once filed bankruptcy in Sacramento, listing $6,567 in assets and $84,304 in liabilities. She also allegedly pled guilty for prostitution.
“In short, Plaintiff has no corroboration or credibility in what we believe to be an effort to publicly extort Mr. Simmons,” writes Glaser.
Mastroianni hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
As for Simmons’ latest court declaration, the one where he denies ever raping another individual, that was executed by the music impresario from Bali, Indonesia.
In Mastroianni’s previous court brief, Simmons was called out for fleeing to Indonesia, a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S., in what the attorney characterized as an “apparent attempt to protect himself from arrest and criminal prosecution.”
No known arrest warrant has been issued for Simmons. While the New York Police Department has interviewed women accusing Simmons of assault, several of those accusers detailed incidents that occurred long ago, meaning outside the statute of limitations.
Then again, with Simmons’ bold declaration this month in a civil case, he has now opened himself up to potential prosecution for perjury. He maintains his innocence.
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