Neil Portnow Rape Case Dismissed by Judge

May 20, 2024 - News

UPDATE (5/20/24 @ 2:36 p.m. ET): A Manhattan federal judge has dismissed the rape case against former Recording Academy head Neil Portnow after his Jane Doe accuser and her attorneys separately filed to drop it earlier this month. Judge Analisa Torres dismissed the case without prejudice, as the plaintiff requested, meaning she can refile it at a later date. That went against the wishes of Portnow and his attorneys, who had requested that the judge dismiss the case with prejudice in an effort to block his accuser from bringing the lawsuit again.


A woman who filed a lawsuit accusing former Recording Academy boss Neil Portnow of rape is now moving to drop her case, citing concerns that her name will be revealed and a dispute with her own lawyers.

In a letter filed Sunday without the help of her attorneys, the Jane Doe accuser told a Manhattan federal judge she was “unable to proceed with the case” because of “fear of potential grave harm” if her name is disclosed in court documents, as Portnow’s attorneys have formally requested.

“The circumstances surrounding this case have created a genuine concern for my safety, and emotional well-being,” the woman wrote in the letter, obtained by Billboard. “Dismissing the case would alleviate this fear and allow me to move forward without unnecessary risks.”

A day after the unusual letter, the woman’s lawyer moved to withdraw from the case immediately, saying the relationship with his client had “deteriorated beyond repair.”

“Unbeknownst to counsel, plaintiff filed a letter on this court’s docket requesting voluntary dismissal of her case,” Doe’s attorney Jeffrey Anderson wrote. “Plaintiff’s action in filing it demonstrates the irreconcilable differences that provide a basis for withdrawal.”

The news of Sunday’s letter was first reported Wednesday by the New York Times.

The unnamed woman sued Portnow in November, claiming that he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2018. She also named the Recording Academy as a defendant, saying that the group’s negligence had enabled Portnow’s conduct. The case was part of a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against powerful men in the music industry in late 2023.

But on Sunday, she sent a letter directly to the judge without the aid of her attorneys, announcing that she wanted to drop the case. The Jane Doe said that it was “impossible for me to proceed with the case in all aspects” and that dismissing the case would be in “the best interest of all parties.”

The sudden reversal appears to have been sparked by efforts from Portnow’s attorneys to force her to reveal her name. In an April filing, his lawyers claimed that she wanted to “use anonymity as a shield” while embarking on a “public relations campaign to destroy Mr. Portnow’s reputation.”

A previous ruling, when the case had originally been filed in state court, had allowed the Jane Doe to proceed under the pseudonym. But Portnow’s lawyers said that ruling had no binding effect on the case after it had been moved to federal court in January.

In a response last week, Doe’s lawyers argued that disclosure motion should be denied. Citing his client’s “fears of stigma and emotional distress,” Anderson warned that “public identification puts plaintiff at risk of retaliatory harm” and could deter other abuse victims from coming forward.

But in her letter to the judge on Sunday, Doe said that her lawyers had privately disclosed to her on April 26 that they believed Portnow’s demand to reveal her would be granted. She quoted from emails in which another attorney told her: “Our view is that they will prevail on that motion and your name will be made public which will cause harm to you and your reputation.” Anderson allegedly wrote that the move to federal court meant that “your name can no longer be protected” and she faced “grave further harm.”

Doe also claimed that Anderson had informed her that he would no longer be representing her in the case, telling her in a May 1 letter that “the best route would be for you to find a new attorney.” She warned the judge that he had “ignored” her requests for more information, and that his public opposition filing to Portnow’s disclosure demands “did not accurately reflect my position.”

“This misrepresentation has significant implications for the case,” Doe wrote in her direct letter to the judge on Sunday. “I am deeply concerned about its impact.”

Anderson did not return a request for comment from Billboard on Wednesday.

In court filings on Tuesday, attorneys for both Portnow and the Recording Academy asked the judge for more time to consider how to proceed after Doe’s request for voluntary dismissal. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.

The dispute in the Portnow case comes two months after a different federal judge ruled that one of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ accusers would have to reveal her name to proceed in her case. In a February ruling, the judge acknowledged that disclosure “could have a significant impact,” but that allowing cases to proceed under a pseudonym in the U.S. court system was “the exception and not the rule” and that “generalized, uncorroborated” concerns about privacy were not enough.

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