Former Grammy Awards head Neil Portnow was sued by a Recording Academy member who claimed he drugged and raped her at a New York hotel in 2018.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in New York state court, accuses Portnow of sexual assault that was “aided and abetted” by the Recording Academy to “protect her reputation and silence the plaintiffs and other women in the music industry.” bring”.
The case suggests that Portnow resigned as head of the institution after his contract expired in 2019 due to self-inflicted scandals. That included him saying in an interview after the 60th Grammy Awards in New York City in 2018 that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be better represented in the music industry, and the termination of his successor, Deborah Dugan. The lawsuit alleges that Dugan was fired by the Recording Academy because she refused to bring Portnow back as a consultant after she was told about the alleged rape.
In a statement, a spokesman for Portnow denied the allegations, saying they were “a figment of the plaintiff’s imagination and undoubtedly stemmed from Mr. Portnow’s refusal to comply with the plaintiff’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa for her.” to comply”.
The Recording Academy said in a statement: “We continue to believe the claims are without merit and intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
Although she is not named in the lawsuit, the plaintiff is described as a professional musician who met Portnow in January 2018 in New York, where he was speaking on a panel at an event for the 60th Grammy Awards. The couple stayed in touch and their next meeting was in June when she interviewed him for a magazine story in his room at the Kitano Hotel.
According to the complaint, Portnow offered her wine, which she drank and immediately “felt lightheaded and had difficulty focusing her eyes.” She lost consciousness after trying to push away Portnow, who tried to kiss and massage her body.
The lawsuit states: “On various occasions throughout the night, plaintiff temporarily regained consciousness. Each time the plaintiff lay in Portnow’s hotel bed. Each time, Portnow sexually assaulted the plaintiff.”
At one point, she awoke to find Portnow “forcing Plaintiff’s hand to manipulate his penis” before “forcibly penetrating Plaintiff’s vagina,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit includes email correspondence between her and the Recording Academy, which allegedly failed to question her about the alleged assault despite informing her about it. She claims an investigation into Portnow’s “propensity for sexual assault” “revealed that Portnow is unsuitable for further employment.”
In December 2018, the accuser said she filed a report with the New York Police Department accusing Portnow of sexually abusing her.
The plaintiff says she continues to suffer “great mental and physical pain, severe and lasting emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, physical, personal and psychological injury.” She accuses Portnow of sexual harassment and negligent hiring, supervision and retention against the Recording Academy, among other claims of gender-based violence.
After Portnow stepped down as head of the Recording Academy less than a year later, Dugan was named his successor. She was subsequently placed on administrative leave in January 2020 and subsequently filed a discrimination complaint against the organization with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Dugan claimed she was fired because she refused to bring Portnow back as a consultant for the Grammys. The case was settled in June 2021.
Portnow said in a statement issued after the 2020 complaint was filed: “The unfounded complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Directors.” A thorough independent investigation was conducted by experienced and reputable lawyers and I was completely exonerated.”
The Grammy nominations will be announced on Friday, with the event taking place on February 4th.