Former Head of Grammys Neil Portnow Sued for Sexual Battery

A musician filed a lawsuit today (Nov. 8) accusing former Grammys head and Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow of sexual battery, according to a report by The New York Times, via Variety.

Content warning: sexual assault

The lawsuit doesn’t name the musician, but describes her as an instrumentalist that’s performed at Carnegie Hall and isn’t from the United States. The suit alleges that the musician first met Portnow at a Recording Academy event in January of 2018, and then he invited her to the Grammy Awards ceremony.

The suit further claims that the musician met Portnow again a few months later at a hotel in June, and she lost consciousness after drinking wine that he gave her. She then allegedly woke up to him sexually assaulting her. According to the suit, the instrumentalist contacted the Recording Academy and attempted to inform them of the assault. The report also claimed that she tried to file a police report, but the district attorney’s office refused to take action.

The accusations against Portnow first became public in early 2020 when Deborah Dugan, his successor, was ousted from the Recording Academy after filing a complaint against him and various other individuals within the organization in late 2019. Portnow stepped down from his role as the CEO of the Recording Academy as a result of the allegations, and Dugan took his place until she was placed on administrative leave and then terminated by the company, as noted by Variety.

The new lawsuit, which was filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, not only accuses Portnow of sexual battery, but also accuses the Recording Academy of negligence. The musician provided evidence of her communications with the Recording Academy about the incident in 2018.

“Neil Portnow gives lip service to women as standing up,” the musician’s attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson said. “But he does a disservice to every woman and every musician who is being oppressed by him and others. This is not just about Neil Portnow and not just about the Recording Academy, but about the culture in the music and entertainment industry and its doublespeak about rape and abuse.”

READ MORE: Study Reveals One-in-Five Music Industry Workers Have Experienced Sexual Harrassment, Abuse

A representative on behalf of Portnow issued a statement, calling the accusations false and said they were “the product of the plaintiff’s imagination 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.”

“We continue to believe the claims to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit,” The Recording Academy said in a statement to Variety.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, resources are available for help. Visit the RAINN website (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) or dial 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673).

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