Neil Portnow Sexual Assault Accuser Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Due to Fear of Public Identification

A member of the Recording Academy who claimed Neil Portnow, former head of the Grammy Awards, drugged and raped her in a New York hotel in 2018 has asked the court to dismiss her lawsuit.

The move is a result of a looming court order that would force the woman to publicly reveal her identity.

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In a letter sent to the court on Saturday, the woman said she was concerned about her privacy and safety. She also pointed to a conflict with her lawyer over communication issues and a “misrepresentation” that could have “significant implications for the case,” though he challenged Portnow’s motion to require her to use her real name just days before she voluntarily moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

On Monday, Jeffrey Anderson moved to withdraw as her lawyer in the case. He cited “irreconcilable differences” over the woman filing a letter to the court requesting dismissal of her case without his knowledge.

The woman, in a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in November, accused Portnow of sexual assault, which the Recording Academy “aided and abetted” to “protect their reputations and silence” her and other women in the music industry. It was filed under a New York law that suspended time constraints on claims involving allegations of sexual misconduct for one year.

The case, however, was removed to federal court from state court, which are typically more lenient in allowing plaintiffs suing for sexual assault to proceed anonymously, because the woman is believed to be a citizen of South Korea, and the alleged damages in the case exceed $75,000. The Recording Academy is also based in California.

With the federal court exercising jurisdiction over the case, Portnow, who declined to comment, moved for the woman to disclose her name. He stressed that the allegations in the lawsuit are “particularly venomous, not only because they are false, but because they are belied by a trove of emails and texts reflecting Plaintiff’s warm feelings toward Mr. Portnow after the alleged incident, extending to her proposal for marriage and request for his help in writing a recommendation letter for Plaintiff’s immigration application.”

Edward Spiro, Portnow’s lawyer, pointed to sexual assault lawsuits against Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and Tupac Shakur in which the courts ruled that the public has an interest in the accusers’ identities because the allegations were made against public figures.

Anderson, the woman’s lawyer, said his client should be allowed to use a pseudonym because publicly identifying her would put her “at risk of retaliatory harm, personally and professionally,” as well as expose her to “emotional distress, embarrassment, and ridicule.” He also argued that it’s in the public interest to allow her to anonymously proceed with the case.

“Forcing survivors of sexual violence to reveal their identities is counterproductive to the legislature’s purpose and intent of in passing the Adult Survivors Act under which Plaintiff brings her claims,” he wrote. “While there is a public interest in accountability for these types of harms, knowing Plaintiff’s identity does nothing to further that interest. Indeed, it would serve the purpose of deterring survivors from bringing claims.”

Despite the rebuttal, the woman filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit “without prejudice,” meaning it can be refiled if she chooses. She said she was told by her lawyers that an order would be issued forcing her to reveal her name and that she “would face harm or retaliation.”

In a letter, Anderson wrote, “Now that the defendants brought your case into the federal court where your anonymity and your name can no longer be protected, you are faced and we are faced with the possibility of grave further harm,” according to the woman’s email to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.

She noted that Anderson, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, informed her last month that he would step down as her lawyer. The woman also said Anderson “proceeded with the case without my agreement,” pointing to his motion challenging the disclosure of her identity.

Anderson on Monday asked the court to allow him to withdraw from the case, explaining that the “attorney-client relationship has deteriorated beyond repair.” He disputed the characterization of statements made in the woman’s letter.

In 2002, Portnow was appointed chief executive of the Recording Academy. The lawsuit nodded to him stepping down as head of the institution after his contract expired in 2019 amid self-inflicted scandals. This included him saying in 2018, in an interview following the 60th Grammy Awards in New York City, that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be better represented in the music industry and the termination of his successor Deborah Dugan.

The lawsuit claimed that Dugan was fired by the Recording Academy for refusing to bring Portnow back as a consultant after she was told about the alleged rape.

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