Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs: What we know about the accusations against him

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Sean “Diddy” Combs is considered as one of the key architects of the commercialisation of hip-hop

A string of sexual assault allegations have been made against Sean “Diddy” Combs, one of the most successful music moguls in the history of rap.

Four women, including his long-time partner Casandra “Cassie” Ventura, have filed lawsuits against the musician, accusing him of sexual and physical abuse.

Producer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones filed a similar suit in February, alleging Combs abused him over a year-long period when he was living on the star’s properties and working on his music.

In a statement issued last December, Combs defended himself against what he described as “sickening allegations” made by “individuals looking for a quick payday”.

“Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged,” he said, adding he would fight to clear his name.

However, in March 2024, federal agents raided two houses owned by the star “as part of an ongoing investigation” into sex trafficking.

His lawyer called the action an “unprecedented ambush” and a “gross overuse of military-level force”, and maintained his client’s innocence.

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Watch: Aerial footage shows raids at Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’s properties

Combs – who has also gone by the names Puffy, Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Love, and Brother Love – essentially rewrote the rules of hip-hop in the 1990s, but his career has been punctuated by controversies.

Here is a timeline of his career and the accusations made against him.

1969-89: Early life in New York

Sean John Combs was born in Harlem and raised in Mount Vernon, New York.

His mother, Janice, was a teacher’s assistant, while his father Melvin was a former member of the US Air Force who became an associate of the drug-trafficker Frank Lucas, who later inspired the Ridley Scott film American Gangster.

In 1972, Melvin was fatally shot in his car during a drug transaction after being misidentified as an informant. Combs was just two, although he didn’t learn the circumstances of his father’s death until much later.

Raised by his mother, he was a flashy kid who loved rap music and played football for the school team.

As a teenager, he danced in music videos for artists such as Diana Ross and the Fine Young Cannibals.

Taking a cue from his mother, who worked multiple jobs to support Sean and his sister Keisha, he also worked six separate newspaper delivery routes, before enrolling to study business administration at Howard University.

Early 1990s: Party plans turn into tragedy

At university, Combs gained a reputation for throwing lavish parties, some of which attracted more than a thousand guests.

After booking musicians such as Heavy D and Terry Riley to play at these gigs, he came to the attention of Uptown Records’ founder Andre Harrell, who gave him an internship in New York.

Combs eventually dropped out of university to work there full-time, guiding the early careers of artists including Mary J Blige and Jodeci.

However, tragedy struck in 1991, when Combs co-promoted a celebrity basketball game and concert at City College of New York. Nearly 5,000 people showed up to the gymnasium, which could only fit 2,730 people. In the ensuing crush, nine people died and 29 people were injured.

An inquiry by the New York Mayor’s Office cited Combs for hiring inexperienced security guards. However, the star and his lawyers maintained he was not responsible for security at the event.

“City College is something I deal with every day of my life,” the musician said in 1998. “But the things that I deal with can in no way measure up to the pain that the families deal with. I just pray for the families and pray for the children who lost their lives every day.”

No criminal charges were filed over the tragedy, but family members of the people who died sued the promoters, the college and the city, accusing them of negligence.

The case was settled for $3.8m (£3m), of which Mr. Combs paid $750,000.

Mid-to-late 1990s: A new beginning

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Combs struck upon the idea of pairing R&B singers like Mary J Blige with the street-tough sounds of hip-hop

While at Uptown, Combs signed a young Brooklyn rapper called Christopher Wallace – aka Biggie Smalls, or the Notorious B.I.G. – and started work on his debut album.

But his relationship with Harrell broke down and Combs was fired. He retaliated by setting up his own label, Bad Boy Records, and taking Biggie with him.

The star’s debut album, Ready To Die, was hailed as an all-time rap classic, selling millions of copies and generating the multi-platinum singles Juicy and Big Poppa.

Combs quickly expanded the Bad Boy roster, releasing hit albums by Faith Evans, Ma$e, 112 and Total.

The label’s sound was slick and polished. Its biggest singles lifted chunky samples from well-known hits. The practice was frowned upon by hip-hop purists, but it was catnip to radio programmers.

1997: Notorious B.I.G. is murdered

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The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy (as he was then known) on the set of the Hypnotize music video in 1997

In March 1997, Biggie Smalls was gunned down in a drive-by shooting at the age of 24.

The murder has never been solved, but it has consistently been linked to the East-Coast-West-Coast rivalry that consumed rap music in the 1990s and which had previously claimed the life of Tupac Shakur.

Combs, who had been travelling in the car behind his friend, poured his grief into a song, I’ll Be Missing You, which became one of the biggest songs of 1997.

The song, based around The Police’s Every Breath You Take, also featured on Combs’ debut album, No Way Out, which sold seven million copies worldwide.

1999: New York shooting

By this stage, Bad Boy had become one of the most important labels in rap. Aside from its own releases, artists including Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez were asking Combs to remix their songs, hoping for a dash of hip-hop credibility.

But there was trouble, too. In May 1999, Combs was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Interscope Records executive Steve Stoute, after a disagreement over a music video. He pleaded guilty to harassment and was sentenced to a one-day anger management class.

Later that year, he was charged with criminal possession of a weapon when police found two nine-millimetre guns in his car, after an argument in a club turned violent.

Combs and his then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were both arrested. Combs was later acquitted of all charges. Lopez was not charged.

2003: Sued by business partner

A former president of Bad Boy Entertainment sued Combs in 2003, alleging that his former business partner threatened him with a baseball bat and forced him into signing over his shares in the company.

In his lawsuit, Kirk Burrowes also says that Combs intimidated Mary J Blige into dropping him as her manager in 2001.

Combs denied the allegations, calling them “complete fantasy”.

An appeals court dismissed the case in 2006, ruling that the statute of limitations has expired.

2005-2018: Relationship with Cassie Ventura

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Sean Combs and Cassie Ventura were in an on-and-off relationship for more than a decade

In 2005, 20-year-old singer Casandra Elizabeth Ventura scored a minor club hit in Germany with her debut single, Me & U.

After hearing it on a night out, Combs convinces Cassie (as she is known professionally) to join Bad Boy Records for a 10-album deal.

Her self-titled debut was released in 2008 and its futuristic, space-age R&B proved to be a hit with critics.

By that stage, Combs and Ventura were in a relationship. But in a civil lawsuit filed in December 2023, she said the mogul had used his position of power to “set the groundwork” for a “manipulative and coercive romantic and sexual relationship”.

Her lawsuit included multiple graphic descriptions of violent abuse, alleging that Combs “regularly beat and kicked Ms Ventura, leaving black eyes, bruises, and blood”.

Ventura also alleged sexual abuse and rape, and claimed that many of these incidents were witnessed by Combs’ “tremendously loyal network” who “were not willing to do anything meaningful” to stop the violence.

Combs strenuously denied the allegations and accused Ventura of trying to extort him. They settled the case a day after it was filed in New York, with Combs’ lawyer saying the settlement was “in no way an admission of wrongdoing”.

2007-2024: Business ventures

Music took a back seat after 2007, when Combs signed a deal with British drinks company Diageo to promote the French vodka brand, Cîroc, in the US for a 50-50 profit split.

His endorsement saw the brand placed in dozens of music videos – including Diddy’s own single “Ciroc Star” – and helped increase sales from 40,000 to 2,000,000 cases per year by 2014.

Around the same time, he co-founded the media company Revolt, whose TV channels and websites are described as “the unapologetic, authoritative voice of hip-hop culture”.

Combs’ involvement with both companies came to an end in 2023-24. He had previously sued Diageo, accusing it of neglecting his brand because of race.

In 2015, Combs got into a scuffle with his son’s football coach prompted by an argument during training.

As the row escalated, Combs allegedly threatened an intern with a kettle bell. He was later arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The charges were subsequently dropped. A representative for Combs said press accounts of the incident were “wholly inaccurate”.

2019: Gina Huynh alleges abuse

The first allegations of abuse to surface against Combs came from his model ex-girlfriend Gina Huynh.

Although largely unreported at the time, Huynh gave an interview to YouTube personality Tasha K, where she said Combs had been physically abusive and offered her money to get an abortion during their on-off, five-year relationship.

On one occasion, she alleged that Combs had once “stomped on my stomach really hard – like, took the wind out of my breath”.

He did not respond to the accusations.

September 2023: Musical comeback

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The musician won a lifetime achievement award last year, shortly before accusation against him started piling up

Combs ended an eight-year musical hiatus with the release of his fifth record. Titled The Love Album: Off The Grid, it featured collaborations with The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, 21 Savage and Mary J Blige.

The release coincided with Combs being named a “Global Icon” at the MTV Awards.

In November, The Love Album earned the star his first solo nomination at the Grammys, in the best progressive R&B album category.

However, he pulled out of the ceremony as his legal troubles mounted.

November 2023: Three lawsuits in the space of one week

In the same week as Cassie filed (and settled) her lawsuit against Combs, two more women came forward with claims of abuse and assault.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan, Joi Dickerson-Neal accused the star of drugging and sexually assaulting her when she was a college student in 1991. She also claimed he recorded the attack and distributed the footage without her consent.

A third woman, Liza Gardner, also filed court papers accusing Combs of coercing her into sex in the early 1990s and then, a couple of days later, choking her so hard that she passed out.

The lawsuits all came shortly before the expiration of the New York Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily allowed people who said they were sexually abused to file claims, even after the statute of limitations had expired.

Combs denied all the allegations against him, while his spokesperson called the lawsuits a “money grab”.

“The claims involving alleged misconduct against Mr Combs from over 30 years ago and filed at the last minute are all completely denied and rejected by him,” they said in a statement.

“The New York Legislature surely did not intend or expect the Adult Survivors Act to be exploited for improper purposes. The public should be sceptical and not rush to accept these unsubstantiated allegations.”

December 2023: Underage sex claim

A fourth woman sued in December, claiming she was “sex trafficked” and “gang raped” by Combs, former Bad Boy Records president Harve Pierre and another man in 2003, when she was 17 years old.

In court papers, the woman alleged she was given “copious amounts of drugs and alcohol” before the attack and was left in so much pain that she could barely stand or remember how she got home.

In response, Combs said he “did not do any of the awful things being alleged”, while Pierre said the “disgusting allegations” were “false and a desperate attempt for financial gain”.

The judge in the case later ruled that the woman, who filed her case anonymously, would have to use her real name if she wanted to proceed.

December 2023: Diddy’s denial

On 6 December, Combs responded to the flurry of lawsuits with a statement on his Instagram page.

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH,” he wrote. “For the last couple of weeks, I have sat silently and watched people try to assassinate my character, destroy my reputation and my legacy.

“Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

February 2024: Accusations of grooming

Music producer Rodney Jones Jr, who produced nine tracks on The Love Album, sued Combs in February 2024, accusing the star of making unwanted sexual contact and forcing him to hire prostitutes and participate in sex acts with them.

In court papers filed in New York, Jones also claimed that Combs tried to “groom” him into having sex with another man, telling him it was “a normal practice in the music industry”.

Combs’ lawyer, Shawn Holley, called the producer “nothing more than a liar” and described his claims as “pure fiction” that can be discredited by “overwhelming, indisputable proof”.

March 2024: Combs’ properties raided

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Aerial view of raid on Sean “Diddy” Combs home in LA

One month later, federal agents raided two properties owned by Combs in Los Angeles and Miami. Computers and other devices were confiscated while officers searched his Californian mansion.

Combs was also stopped at an airport in Miami as he prepared to leave for the Bahamas, according to the New York Times. He is said to have handed over a number of electronic devices and was not detained.

The Department of Homeland Security said the searches formed “part of an ongoing investigation”, but it was not clear how their inquiries were related to the civil cases against Combs.

His lawyer called the raids a “witch-hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits” and said his client was innocent.

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