By Ramishah Maruf, CNN Business
Billionaire investor Leon Black has been sued by a woman alleging he “brutal[ly]” raped her at Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse in spring 2002.
Cheri Pierson names both Black — the co-founder and former CEO of private equity behemoth Apollo Global Management — and the estate of the late Epstein as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in New York court on Monday.
Pierson alleges Epstein arranged for her to give Black a massage on the third floor of Epstein’s New York City mansion, which she agreed to in exchange for money that she “desperately needed” to care for her young daughter. Instead, she alleges, Black raped her in a “brutal attack” that left her “swollen, torn, and bleeding.”
“By the time Ms. Pierson exited the massage suite and rode down the elevator with Black, she could barely walk out of the house onto the sidewalk, as she was in excruciating pain and still in shock,” said the complaint filed by law firm Wigdor LLP.
Black denied the allegations Monday. His attorney, Susan Estrich of Estrich Goldin, said in a statement that the claims “are categorically false and part of a scheme to extort money from Mr. Black by threatening to destroy his reputation.” According to Forbes, Black’s net worth is $9 billion.
The former Wall Street tycoon — who stepped down as CEO of Apollo in January 2021 after an independent review of his ties to convicted sex offender Epstein — expressed regret for his dealings with Epstein in a letter to investors in 2020. The New York Times reported Black may have paid up to $75 million to Epstein for consulting and other services, according to two people with knowledge of the transactions, adding that the two “often socialized and dined together.”
Black is also facing claims from Russian model Guzel Ganieva, who said he sexually abused her and then falsely accused her of extortion when she spoke out. Black has denied those allegations as well.
Wigdor filed Pierson’s complaint Monday under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. The firm’s Doug Wigdor helped advocate for the new law, which was passed in May and went into effect last week. it gives adult sexual assault survivors a one-year window to bring claims against abusers in New York, setting aside the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits.
Several weeks before the alleged assault, according to the complaint, Epstein had told Pierson he would arrange a meeting with a wealthy and powerful man he did not name — whom he allegedly said could potentially help with a skincare product she was trying to market. After the alleged rape Pierson, who did not have health insurance, was so badly injured that it was difficult for her to urinate for “several weeks,” according to the complaint.
Also after the alleged attack, the complaint says,Black allegedly called Pierson multiple times saying he felt “bad” and “wanted to talk,” and later gave her $5,000 at a bar. After that he called again and asked to see her, according to the complaint, but Pierson refused to see him again.
“Thanks to the passage of the Adult Survivors Act, survivors of sexual violence like our client Ms. Pierson can seek the justice they deserve no matter how many years ago their trauma was suffered,” Wigdor partner Jeanne Christensen said in a statement.
In his 2020 letter to investors expressing regret for his ties to Epstein, Black said their relationship involved only professional services like “estate planning, tax and philanthropic endeavors.” He also wrote that he occasionally met with Epstein at Epstein’s townhouse in New York to conduct business, as Epstein did not have a separate office.
In 2008, Epstein pled guilty in Florida to two felony offenses: procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. Following Epstein’s 18-month prison sentence, Black did not think it was inappropriate to continue a business relationship with him, a report from law firm Dechert said, because Black is someone “who believes in rehabilitation.”
Epstein died by suicide in August 2019 while in federal custody awaiting trial for sex trafficking charges.
— CNN’s Matt Egan and Jazmin Goodwin contributed to this report.
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