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Neil Portnow, who resigned as CEO of the Grammy Awards in 2019, was sued Wednesday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan by a woman who claims he drugged and raped her in his hotel room the year prior, according to The New York Times.
The sexual battery suit, which does not name the woman who filed it, also accuses the Recording Academy of negligence. The plaintiff is described in the filing as an instrumentalist who is not from the U.S. and once performed at Carnegie Hall.
The filing claims Portnow met her at an academy event in New York in January 2018. She asked to interview him for a publication she had launched, and was invited to his Kitano Hotel room in June and given a glass of wine that made her “feel woozy.”
The plaintiff added Portnow, who said no taxis were available to take her home, told her he’d “been thinking about” her “for a very long time.” She allegedly woke up multiple times that night to find him “forcibly” raping her — and still felt woozy in the morning.
A representative for Portnow told the Times on Wednesday that the woman’s claims are untrue and “undoubtedly motivated by Mr. Portnow’s refusal to comply with the plaintiff’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa for her.”
The Recording Academy and Portnow did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
The woman said in her suit that Portnow ignored her attempts to contact him about that night, but that she emailed Recording Academy officials to inform them of the assault. She later filed a police report, which her lawyers said the district attorney’s office declined to pursue.
“We continue to believe the claims to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit,” the Recording Academy told the Times in a statement.
Portnow resigned as CEO of the Grammys in July 2019.
The suit includes correspondence about the alleged incident the plaintiff had with the academy, as well as an image of an email Portnow sent the woman in November 2018 that stated: “Please know that I have always respected you in every way at all times.”
The email added: “I remember your indicating your interest and belief in the teachings of Buddha and I found this saying which resonates with you now: ‘Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.’”
Portnow addressed backlash to the lack of female winners at the 2018 Grammys by telling women to “step up.” His successor, Deborah Dugan, was ousted after only five months. In a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after her removal, Dugan accused the academy of numerous offenses, including covering up Portnow’s alleged crimes.
“Neil Portnow gives lip service to women as standing up,” Jeffrey R. Anderson, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the Times in a statement Wednesday. “But he does a disservice to every woman and every musician who is being oppressed by him and others.”
Portnow’s representative told the Times he made his texts and emails “immediately available” to the academy’s HR department after being accused. The plaintiff, however, said she wasn’t part of their investigation.
Portnow left his post as CEO in July 2019 when his employment contract expired. He reportedly received an $800,000 bonus in July 2022.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.