By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – R&B vocalist Cassandra Ventura sued Sean “Diddy” Combs in federal court on Thursday, accusing the rapper and hip-hop mogul she once dated and whose music label she signed with of subjecting her to serial physical abuse, sexual slavery and rape.
One of the central allegations against Combs by Ventura, who performs under the stage name Cassie, was that he forced her to engage in sex acts with a succession of male prostitutes he hired while he watched and filmed the encounters for his own pleasure.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also accuses Combs of regularly beating Ventura over the course of a 10-year professional and romantic relationship in which he controlled her through intimidation and by plying her with drugs and alcohol.
Ventura, 37, alleges that Combs raped her near the end of their relationship in 2018 when she broached the idea of leaving him.
Combs’ lawyer, Ben Brafman, issued a statement saying his client “vehemently denies these offensive and outrageous allegations.”
Brafman said Ventura resorted to filing a lawsuit “riddled with baseless and outrageous lies” after a failed attempt to blackmail Combs into paying her $30 million by threatening to write a damaging book about their relationship.
Combs, 54, founder of the landmark label Bad Boy Records, is one of the most influential producers and executives in hip-hop and a hugely successful performer in his own right, as well as the impresario of his own Sean John clothing line.
Forbes magazine ranked him in 2017 as the world’s highest-paid musician, then earning an estimated $130 million a year.
The lawsuit filed Thursday depicted Combs, who has formerly gone by such monikers as P. Diddy, Puff Daddy and Diddy, as an erratic, controlling individual with violent tendencies aimed at Ventura and others.
The lawsuit said he forced Ventura to carry his handgun for him in her purse, once dangled a friend of hers over the balcony of a high-rise hotel suite and blew up a car belonging to rapper Kid Cudi after learning he was interested in Ventura.
According to the lawsuit, Ventura met Combs in late 2005 when she was 19 and he was 37, signed a 10-album recording deal with Bad Boy Records within months and began a romantic relationship with him a few years later.
The lawsuit does not seek a specified amount of monetary damages. Instead, it says Ventura seeks “justice for the decade of her life that Mr. Combs took away from her with threats of violence, excessive use of drugs, physical and psychological abuse and sexual slavery.”
The lawsuit cites violations of sex trafficking and human trafficking statutes under federal, New York and California laws.
Combs is the latest high-profile figure in the recording industry to be accused of sexual misconduct in recent lawsuits, among them singer-songwriter Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, record producer L.A. Reid and music executive Neil Portnow, former chairman and CEO of the Recording Academy that hosts the Grammys.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, editing by Deepa Babington)