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A stampede, a shooting and bodyguard brawls: How Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ legal troubles have played out

A stampede, a shooting and bodyguard brawls: How Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ legal troubles have played out

A lawsuit accusing Sean “Diddy” Combs of rape and abuse was quickly settled out of court one day after it was filed last week, adding to a lengthy list of accusations and legal troubles for the longtime entertainment mogul.

Combs, whose net worth is estimated at $1 billion, has faced legal action or settlement payouts more than four dozen times over a career spanning four decades as a rapper, producer and mogul, according to court documents reviewed by NBC News. Some of the allegations relate to his music and business pursuits, and many were ultimately thrown out, while a half-dozen of the actions naming Combs, 54, accuse him of either committing or having others commit violence.

In the most recent suit, Combs’ former girlfriend Cassie, the R&B singer, accused him of raping, sex trafficking and physically abusing her while they dated. Terms of the settlement, announced Friday, were not disclosed.

The amount of litigation is not necessarily surprising, given Combs’ celebrity stature and high-profile dealings, said Moraima Ivory, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law and director of the Center for Entertainment, Sports and Intellectual Property Law.

Combs, who went from launching his own music label, Bad Boy Records, to enterprises in fashion, food and television, has previously accused people of filing “nuisance” claims against him simply because of who he is.

“I’m not implying he’s a target,” Ivory said of Combs, “but when you live out loud — and he lives out loud — that type of large persona is going to attract attention and, potentially, lawsuits.”

Combs has rarely faced criminal charges. His arrest in 2015 on suspicion of attacking his son’s football coach at UCLA with a kettlebell resulted in prosecutors’ declining to pursue charges.

Combs’ representatives and lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday when they were asked about the volume and nature of lawsuits over the years.

“Public figures generally want to avoid bad publicity, even if your company is called Bad Boy,” Ivory said. “So if you can avoid that by figuring out a settlement, that might be the most advantageous way to go.”

Here’s a history of some of Combs’ legal controversies:

1991

As a fledgling producer in New York’s music industry, Combs, then 22, helped to promote a celebrity charity basketball event at City College that included the rapper Heavy D. A surging crowd for the oversold game led to a stampede that resulted in the deaths of nine people and injuries to more than two dozen others. While no criminal charges were filed, a state judge’s decision found the college and Combs and Heavy D equally liable for the tragedy, paving the way for nearly a dozen wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits. In 2000, the last of the lawsuits involving Combs was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Outside the CCNY rap benefit Sean “Puffy” Combs promoted in 1991. Hundreds of rap music fans stampeded after they were shut out of a celebrity basketball game.Ken Murray / NY Daily News via Getty Images

1995

A limousine driver, Cedrick Bobby Lemon, said he was beaten by bodyguards Combs hired to protect the singer Mary J. Blige. In a lawsuit, Lemon said the guards punched and kicked him backstage at a concert as they tried to clear the area and accused Combs of having failed to properly train his security. Lemon won the suit by default after Combs did not appear in court; his spokeswoman said he was unaware of it. In 2004, an appeals court overturned the order that required Combs to pay Lemon $450,000.

1999

Combs was arrested on felony charges in New York and accused of beating rival record executive Steve Stoute after a reported dispute over a music video scene in which Combs was nailed to a cross. Combs later apologized, and Stoute asked the Manhattan district attorney to drop the charges, according to The New York Times. In addition, a lawsuit was avoided, but Combs reportedly agreed to pay Stoute $500,000. Stoute could not immediately be reached for comment.

In another alleged altercation, Roger Mills, a Detroit-based cable TV host, accused Combs and his entourage of attacking him after he refused to sell Combs a video interview in which he was asked about his involvement in the 1997 unsolved killing of Bad Boy artist Christopher Wallace, known by the stage names Biggie Smalls and the Notorious B.I.G. In 2001, Mills sued Combs alleging assault, false imprisonment and destruction of property. A spokeswoman for Combs denied the claims and accused Mills of a “blatant attempt to exploit Mr. Combs’ celebrity for media attention.” The case went to trial, and a jury in 2004 ruled in favor of Combs on all counts.

Finally, at the end of 1999, Combs was engulfed in controversy with an arrest in which he was accused of criminal possession of a weapon after a shooting at a New York nightclub. Combs was at the club with then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez and the rapper Shyne, real name Moses Barrow, whom witnesses said they saw fire a gun into a crowd. Witnesses said they also saw Combs with a weapon, according to prosecutors. Shortly after the incident, police pulled over Combs and Lopez and said they had located a firearm inside the car. Shyne was arrested and convicted in 2001 on two counts of assault, reckless endangerment and gun possession, and he was later deported to his native Belize. Combs was acquitted of weapons and bribery charges. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by three people injured in the shooting was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2011, Reuters reported. Combs declined to comment about the agreement at the time.

2001

Combs was sued by his on- and off-again girlfriend, the model Kim Porter, for additional child support for their then-3-year-old son. A settlement was eventually reached in Manhattan Family Court. The couple co-parented four children together, and Porter died in 2019 of pneumonia.

Kim Porter and Sean Combs at the Netflix Icon Building in Los Angeles on Oct. 30, 2018.Charley Gallay / Getty Images for Netflix file

2005

Random House and Combs reached a settlement after the publishing giant said he was given a $300,000 advance for a memoir he was supposed to have finished in 1999 but never completed. The book deal was scrapped.

2007

A former consultant, James Sabatino, sued Combs for $19 million, alleging that Combs failed to pay him in full for a recording he made of Biggie in Miami in 1994. The suit was dismissed in 2009. Separately, Sabatino was at the center of a fraudulent article involving Combs and the slain rapper Tupac Shakur that forced the Los Angeles Times to retract a bombshell story in 2008.

Also in 2007, Gerard Rechnitzer, a partygoer in Los Angeles, said Combs punched him in the face as he was leaving a post-Oscars hotel event and caused him to “fly backward several feet,” according to a lawsuit. He also claimed in the lawsuit that Combs pushed his girlfriend. An attorney for Combs disputed the complaint as “just another example of an opportunist seeking to fabricate a lawsuit.” A settlement was reached in 2008; the terms were not disclosed.

2010

Francesca Spero, a music executive in her 50s, sued Combs for age discrimination, saying she was fired after having worked for him since 1998. The company denied she was let go because of her age, and Combs settled the multimillion-dollar suit in 2011.

2011

Paparazzo Gustavo Garces filed a suit in which he said Combs’ bodyguards assaulted him on New Year’s Eve as he took a picture of him outside the Dream Hotel in Miami. A settlement was reached in 2017, in which Garces agreed to receive $35,000 in exchange for releasing Combs, his bodyguards and their insurance company from liability.

2017

Cindy Rueda, Comb’s personal chef in 2015, filed a suit claiming she was subjected to sexual harassment and worked long hours without being properly compensated. In her complaint, Rueda said Combs told her to cook a “post-coital meal” and wanted to know whether she was attracted to his naked body. Rueda was fired in 2016, and a spokeswoman for Combs described her as a “disgruntled ex-employee.” She settled with Combs in 2019; the terms were not publicly disclosed.

2022

A former nanny working for Combs, Raven Wales-Walden, filed a suit against Combs alleging wrongful termination after, she said, she disclosed her pregnancy in 2020. Wales-Walden also said she was a niece of Porter’s. In a response filed this year in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Combs denied that she is Porter’s niece and that she was discriminated against. A spokesman for Combs called the suit, which continues, “a meritless shakedown to extort money from Mr. Combs.”

2023

Cassie’s lawsuit, filed in New York, included explosive allegations that Combs punched, beat, kicked and stomped on her over the course of their relationship, which began in 2007 and remained off and on over a decade. When she announced the suit, the singer said she had stayed silent for years but was “finally ready to tell my story, and to speak up on behalf of myself and for the benefit of other women who face violence and abuse in their relationships.” A lawyer for Combs later said a decision to settle, “especially in 2023, is in no way an admission of wrongdoing.” In separate statements, Combs and Cassie, whose legal name is Casandra Ventura, said they wanted to resolve the matter amicably. “He is happy they got to a mutual settlement and wishes Ms. Ventura the best,” Combs’ lawyer said in a statement.

Diana Dasrath

Diana Dasrath is entertainment producer and senior reporter for NBC News covering all platforms.

Nicole Childers

Nicole Childers is the executive editor of Business, Tech and Innovation at NBC News.

Erik Ortiz

Erik Ortiz is a senior reporter for NBC News Digital focusing on racial injustice and social inequality.

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