Police Probed Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons for Alleged Sexual Battery in 2001
The Beverly Hills Police Department investigated producers Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons for alleged sexual battery in 2001, according to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office and the producers’ criminal defense attorney. Prosecutors declined to press charges in the case, citing insufficient evidence. The alleged victim has not been identified. According to police records, the 29-year-old woman came into the department to file a report at 4:45 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 3, 2001. She alleged that two men held her against her will and that both touched her unlawfully, according to police.
She contended that the incident occurred between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. that morning at a home in the 1200 block of Benedict Canyon Drive. Ratner’s home, known as Hilhaven Lodge, is on the same block. At the time of the incident, Ratner was coming off the biggest hit of his career with “Rush Hour 2.” Simmons has responded, saying, “This is an important and critical time for the empowerment of women and men who have been harassed. I have been a public figure for all of my adult life. And when you are in that arena over decades, you can find yourself in a position where you are vulnerable and susceptible to claims that are untrue.”
Def Jam Recordings co-founder Simmons has produced films including “The Nutty Professor.” Last week, Warner Bros., which has a $450 million film co-financing deal with Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, forced Ratner to vacate his office on the studio’s Burbank lot after the L.A. Times reported that six women had accused him of sexual misconduct. The 2001 incident underscores the obstacles facing women who report claims of sexual battery against celebrities with high-powered attorneys.
Melanie Kohler, who Ratner is suing over her allegation that he raped her at producer Robert Evans’ home in Beverly Hills, was asked in an ABC News interview on Wednesday why she did not report the allegation to local police. “It just felt like there was nothing that I could do. I didn’t think the police could help me,” she said. “I didn’t know if anyone would be willing to go up against someone so powerful.”
When first asked about the 2001 Beverly Hills incident, Ratner’s civil attorney Marty Singer strongly disputed that an investigation occurred and threatened to sue Variety. He later said that the incident involved another person, whom he did not name, and said that Ratner was not implicated. Ratner’s criminal attorney, Harland Braun, later confirmed that Simmons and Ratner were investigated, and said that both cooperated with police. Braun said that police told him that the alleged victim, who was a model, had made accusations against other celebrities. Braun argued that undermined her credibility.
“It wasn’t rape or anything. It was sexual battery,” Braun said. “This is not her first rodeo… I don’t think there’s anything here. This is a girl that had such a checkered history.” Braun summarized Ratner and Simmons’ account of the incident as follows: “We know her. She came to our house. Nothing happened. She’s making up a story.” According to an internal D.A. database, the case was investigated as a misdemeanor sexual battery involving masturbation, D.A. spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
Retired Beverly Hills Det. Les Zoeller investigated the case, according to Santiago. Police records indicate that the investigation began on Nov. 5, 2001, and at the conclusion the case was presented to the D.A. for possible charges. Zoeller, who is best known as the lead investigator in the Menendez brothers murder case, told Variety he has no recollection of the investigation.
“I don’t have anything to say, I’m sorry,” he said. The D.A.’s office decided not to file charges against Ratner and Simmons on Jan. 4, 2002. In such cases, the D.A.’s office typically issues a letter explaining its decision. However, letters from that period have since been destroyed, according to the D.A.’s office.
Braun, who also represents director Roman Polanski in his efforts to resolve his 40-year-0ld rape case, said he was concerned about a “hysteria” about sexual misconduct allegations in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. He compared the current atmosphere to the climate during the McMartin preschool scandal in the 1980s, which involved allegations of child abuse that proved unfounded.