On December 14, the day after the New York Times published a story in which three women accused music mogul Russell Simmons of rape and various forms of sexual assault, Simmons announced on Instagram that he would publish information to “prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges.” He has yet to do so.
Since then, least 12 women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Simmons. Some have reportedly filed complaints with the police. But Simmons’ Instagram account has been radio silent, save for a few irrelevant inspirational messages. What happened to the co-founder of Def Jam’s plan to prove his innocence?
When Simmons announced his plans on Instagram, he did so in the caption of an image of the hashtag #NotMe that begins with: “Today, I begin to defend myself properly.” He wrote that he would first tackle claims set forward by former model Keri Claussen, who alleged Simmons tried to force her to have sexual intercourse and coerced her into oral sex when she was 17 years old. (Simmons denied the allegation at the time the story broke.)
In his Instagram caption, Simmons refers to Claussen as “The Original Sin,” meaning (I’m guessing) that Claussen’s allegations are the thing that set everything else into motion, that had it not been for her, no other victims would have come forward. In a statement regarding Claussen, Simmons had previously said that their encounter was consensual and that he “never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life.”
After Claussen, he wrote, he would address the allegations made by screenwriter Jenny Lumet, which were reported on days after Claussen’s accusations.
And yet Simmons’ plan of attack hasn’t been so strategically executed. On the same day as his #NotMe post, TMZ reported that Simmons took a lie detector test, which his attorneys, Mike Sterling and E. Carlos Tanner, said he passed; they also told TMZ that he would take four more polygraph tests and release the results.
However, Sterling and Tanner stressed that thje decision to take the first test was entirely Simmons’ own, that they believed they could prove his innocence without, essentially, trying Simmons in the “court of public opinion.” Here’s Sterling talking to TMZ:
We advised him that we can get the truth out with him taking a polygraph test or without subjecting him to a polygraph test, that we could do diligent research and get to the bottom of these allegations and accusations against him, but [Simmons]’s insisted even against the advice of counsel that he be subjected to a polygraph test because he wants people to know that he is telling the truth when he says that he has never committed rape or sexual assault.
It is unclear if the number of polygraph tests that Simmons insisted on taking has grown from four, since now at least 12 women have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct. (We reached out to both Tanner and Sterling for comment and will update this post if we hear back from them.) It is also unclear if Simmons has shared those results as he said he would. The reason may have something to do with the fact that on the same day, December 14, the L.A. times reported that the New York Police Department was opening an investigation into Simmons:
A person at the NYPD who was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that detectives are in the initial stages of reaching out to women who have alleged that Simmons assaulted them in New York.
Maybe with that, Simmons and his lawyers doubled-down on the idea that it’s better to handle this outside of the “court of public opinion” (meaning, not on Instagram?)
It seems like there may be an attempt, however, to paint Simmons’ silence as a generous gesture of his solidarity with women who speak out against sexual violence, rather than a self-serving about-face. When asked by Page Six why Simmons has been so quiet since his #NotMe announcement, Simmons’ representatives said he has since decided “that this is a time for women to speak.” I hope they do.