Fashion model Keri Claussen Khalighi has accused entrepreneur-producer Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct in 1991 when she was 17 and he was 34 years old.
Khalighi said in a report published Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that Simmons coerced her to perform a sex act and later penetrated her without her consent. She also said that the film producer and director Brett Ratner was present.
Khalighi met Simmons, then a Def Jam Recordings mogul, and Ratner, a music video director, at a casting call. After they all had dinner one night in New York City, Khalighi said the men wanted to show her a music video they had been working on, so they went to Simmons’ apartment.
She told the Times that Simmons became aggressive and started taking off her clothes and Ratner did not intervene.
“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she said. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”
Khalighi said Simmons then tried to force her to have intercourse, but she “fought it wildly.”
She alleged that he backed down but pressured her into performing oral sex, saying, “I guess I just acquiesced.”
Khalighi said that Ratner “just sat there and watched.”
Recently, at least 10 women have accused the “Rush Hour” filmmaker of sexual harassment or misconduct. As a result, Warner Bros. forced Ratner to vacate his office on the studio’s Burbank lot.
Khalighi also said that while she was showering after the encounter, Simmons walked up behind her and briefly penetrated her without permission. He then stepped back and left.
“It hurt so much,” she said.
Khalighi did not contact authorities after the alleged assault but said she told three friends about it.
In response to the article, Simmons released a statement on Instagram Sunday morning refuting the allegations.
“As a longtime social activist, I have applauded the strength of brave men and women who have spoken out over the past month and made their voices heard regarding sexual assault and harassment,” the statement reads.
“I am a supporter of the #MeToo campaign and the victims who were previously terrified to standup and speak out against sexual misconduct. I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.”
Simmons said that he knows Khalighi and remembers the weekend she is referring to. He claims that “everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation” and said they spent two days and one night in his apartment. He added that they spent most of the time in the presence of acquaintances.
Simmons, 60, is currently the CEO of Rush Communications, which spearheads numerous ventures including the website Global Grind. He co-founded the hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings, launching careers of artists such as Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Public Enemy. In 1999, Simmons sold Def Jam Recordings to Universal Music for $100 million.
In his 2007 book “Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” Simmons said that when he met Ratner in 1987, the then film student seemed to know where models lived in Manhattan.
“He was willing to do anything to be of use,” Simmons wrote. “After he hung around a bit and figured out that I liked models, then he made it his business to take me to every model’s apartment he could find.”
Simmons met his former wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, in 1992 when she was a 17-year-old international model. They dated on and off for several years and wed in 1998 when she was 23. The couple divorced in 2006 and now co-parents their two daughters.
In his statement on Sunday, he said, “I have always been outspoken regarding my life experiences, women’s issues … more than anything, I want my daughters to live in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.”
Variety published a report on Nov. 9 detailing a previous police investigation regarding Simmons and Ratner. In 2001, a 29-year-old woman filed a report with the Beverly Hills Police Department against the two for alleged sexual battery. The police department investigated the claim.
The woman said the men held her against her will at Ratner’s home and they both touched her unlawfully. On Jan. 4, 2002, prosecutors declined to press charges in the case, citing insufficient evidence.
Simmons said the following in response to the 2001 allegations: “This is an important and critical time for the empowerment of women and men who have been harassed. I have been a public figure for all of my adult life. And when you are in that arena over decades, you can find yourself in a position where you are vulnerable and susceptible to claims that are untrue.”