Former Grammy Chief Neil Portnow Sued for Alleged Sexual Assault

Former Grammy Chief Neil Portnow Sued for Alleged Sexual Assault

Neil Portnow, the past president of the Recording Academy, which presents the Grammy Awards, is facing a lawsuit filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court. The suit accuses him of sexual battery and the Recording Academy of negligence. The plaintiff, an unidentified international instrumentalist who had performed at Carnegie Hall, alleges that Portnow drugged and raped her in a New York hotel room in 2018.

The accusation surfaces amidst a history of tension within the Academy, following Portnow’s controversial remark that women in music should “step up” for recognition, which led to his stepping down in 2019. Deborah Dugan, his successor, was terminated from the academy under contentious circumstances, including alleged retaliation for exposing misconduct within the organization, highlighting the academy’s troubled attempts to address internal issues.

Jeffrey R. Anderson, representing the plaintiff, criticized the culture of the music industry and the “doublespeak about rape and abuse.” In contrast, Portnow’s representative has dismissed the allegations as unfounded, suggesting they are motivated by financial and immigration-related demands made by the plaintiff.

The Recording Academy has also responded, claiming the suit lacks merit and committing to a staunch defense against the allegations. According to the lawsuit, the events unfolded when Portnow invited the plaintiff to the 2018 Grammy event in New York and later to his hotel room under the pretext of an interview for a publication she had initiated. The plaintiff alleges that after accepting a glass of wine from Portnow, she became incapacitated and was subsequently assaulted.

The documents detail her attempts to reach out to Portnow post the incident and her communication with the Recording Academy officials, accusing Portnow of sexual harassment. The academy’s internal investigation following the initial accusations reportedly found no evidence to support the claims. However, the plaintiff’s complaint alleges that she was not contacted during the investigation.

Portnow’s tenure and comments had already sparked controversy during the #MeToo movement, leading to industry-wide calls for his resignation. Dugan’s short-lived tenure as president, marked by her own firing and a discrimination complaint, further exposed the academy’s internal strife.

The lawsuit’s filing coincides with disclosures about the financial settlements the Recording Academy has made with Dugan and payments made to Portnow post his tenure. The academy reported a payment of $5.75 million to Dugan as a legal settlement and severance for the fiscal year 2021 and an $800,000 bonus to Portnow in the same fiscal period.

The case not only reopens the discussion about the challenges women face in the music industry but also puts a spotlight on the mechanisms of accountability within leading cultural institutions. With both sides standing firm on their positions, the lawsuit promises to be a significant chapter in the ongoing narrative of the Recording Academy’s attempts to reconcile its prestigious image with the stark realities of allegations and internal discord.

Author: CrimeDoor

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