St. Louis Record

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Court denies dismissal of sexual assault lawsuit against rapper Nelly


By Carrie Bradon | Jun 24, 2019

ST. LOUIS – A federal court has denied the dismissal of a suit against St. Louis rapper Nelly and his girlfriend filed by an English woman over allegations of sexual assault after a 2017 concert.

Judge Henry Edward Autrey of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri denied Nelly's motion to dismiss the suit on June 12. Listed as Cornell Haynes Jr. in the suit, the rapper is known for hits such as 2002's "Hot in Herre." 

The plaintiff, Jane Doe, filed the complaint anonymously, which Haynes objects to.

He cited a 1996 lawsuit against rapper Tupac Shakur Doe v. Shakur, which also related to civil sexual assault and in which the plaintiff was not allowed to proceed anonymously.

"As defendant points out, the court in Shakur found that because the plaintiff chose to bring civil charges against Shakur, she had to 'be prepared to stand behind her charges publicly,'" Autrey wrote. "It is interesting and important to note that the instant case is distinguishable from Shakur in two respects. First, Shakur was decided 23 years ago. As made evident by the more recent cases cited above, courts now place more weight on the psychological trauma faced by victims of sexual assault, the easy public access of court records online, and the deterrent effect that 'outing' a sexual assault victim may have on other victims. Second, the plaintiff in Shakur conceded that her name, residence, and place of employment were already known to the press, rendering public identification in court filings a moot issue.

"...The court is also mindful of the strong public interest in protecting the identities of sexual assault victims so as not to deter other victims from reporting crimes against them. Having considered and weighed the interests herein, the court concludes that the interest in preserving Plaintiff’s privacy by use of a pseudonym outweighs the public interest in ascertaining her true name, and so Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed under a pseudonym in the instant case," the ruling states.

According the ruling, Doe is a resident of Essex, England and was at the defendant’s concert in Essex on Dec. 5, 2017. Haynes allegedly asked the plaintiff to go with him to his dressing room following the show, and the plaintiff asked that her friends come as well. The plaintiff alleges she joined Haynes in a small adjacent room and he closed the door and proceeded to sexually assault her. She alleges he dropped his pants, masturbated, tried to undress her, tried to kiss her and forced his penis into her mouth. The plaintiff alleges she ran from the defendant but the defendant said, "I will find you."

The ruling alleges defendant’s girlfriend, co-defendant Shantel Jackson, accused the plaintiff of lying about the alleged assault and his attorney also stated that the plaintiff’s allegations were "factually impossible" in a television interview. 

The plaintiff alleges she has been caused to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, emotional trauma, humiliation, loss of reputation, loss of enjoyment of life and is not be able to return to work. The ruling states Doe was concerned that her anxiety and PTSD would worsen if she was forced to reveal her name.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri case number 4:18-CV-01930

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