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A struggling single mother says she was brutally raped by billionaire Leon Black at Jeffrey Epstein's New York City mansion.
Cheri Pierson, who was living in New Jersey at the time, claims she was first introduced to Epstein by his former girlfriend, convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, and then turned over to Black.
Pierson, who now resides in Virginia, spoke for the first time in a lawsuit filed Monday in Manhattan Superior Court against Black and the late Epstein's estate, accusing the founder of Apollo Global Management of overpowering them to have while giving him a massage in early 2002.
Pierson went to Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse to meet an investor who could help fund the launch of a skin care product she was developing, her lawsuit alleges. According to the lawsuit, she would be paid $300 to give the married man a massage. But the rendezvous ended in violence, according to Pierson, who says in Monday's filing that she was "urgently in need of money" at the time.
Unlike many of Epstein's victims, Pierson, whose attorney told The Daily Beast that she does not want to publicly reveal her age, was an adult at the time of the alleged rape. However, she "looked much younger than she was," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is the latest lawsuit related to Epstein following his death in July 2019. Last week, two victims of Epstein's sex ring filed lawsuits against Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan, accusing the investment banks of enabling and deriving his "commercial sex-trafficking enterprise." benefit. ”
Jeffrey Epstein's mansion in Manhattan.
Benno Schwinghammer/Picture Alliance via Getty
Black, who has a net worth of approximately $10 billion, was friends with Epstein from the mid-1990s until 2018. An internal Apollo investigation found that from 2012 to 2017, Black paid Epstein at least $158 million — after Epstein served a Florida jail sentence for soliciting underage girls — for estate and tax planning advice.
Pierson's lawsuit alludes to this friendly relationship. "As Black knows, as early as 2008 and into the present, Epstein intentionally introduced Black to certain women with whom Epstein had ongoing sexual relationships while those women were minors," the filing reads. "When they were no longer attractive to Epstein because he preferred pubescent girls, Epstein simply passed some of those women on to Black and probably other men. Black subsequently became sexually involved with these women, at least some of whom dated Epstein for years when they were minors.”
"There is no doubt that Black was aware of her past connections to Epstein, in fact, that is how they were introduced to Black," the lawsuit continues. "Several of these women, whose identities are known but are protected here for privacy reasons, have been sexually linked to Black for more than a decade, including to the present."
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Pierson's attorney Jeanne Christensen said: "Thanks to the passage of the Adult Survivor's Act, sexual violence survivors like our client Ms Pierson can seek the justice they deserve, no matter how many years ago their trauma was suffered. We look forward to holding the Black and Epstein estate accountable for their appalling unlawful conduct, as alleged in our client's complaint."
Christensen, a partner at Wigdor LLP, is also representing Guzel Ganieva, another woman who is suing Black for defamation and accusing him of rape. Ganieva's court battle with Black is ongoing, and the billionaire has argued that Ganieva's claims are part of an elaborate "blackmail" scheme. Black recently filed a lawsuit against Ganieva, alleging that she is a Russian spy and her legal team plan to "hurt and humiliate him."
Epstein Pal Leon Black claims rape accuser is Russian spy
Pierson's allegations against Black were briefly mentioned in court filings related to Ganieva's defamation lawsuit, but she was identified only under the alias "Jane Doe." On Monday, Christensen told The Daily Beast that "it was a very big decision for [Pierson] to use her name in her lawsuit."
According to Pierson's lawsuit, Epstein invited Pierson to meet Black at Epstein's townhouse and also gave his guest a massage, but did not reveal the private equity mogul's name.
During the session, Black, who allegedly left his socks on, "insisted that he wanted to orally copulate Ms. Pierson and pressured her to get on the massage table," according to her lawsuit. "As she stood there in panic, not knowing what to do, Black used his massive frame (6'4" and 300 pounds) and superior strength to overwhelm, surprise and force Ms. Pierson into a position where she was in which she was physically crushed helpless."
Pierson's suit says that Black "used the edge of the massage table as a fulcrum to harness his physical power and disable it" by turning it "upside down like a rag doll."
"She recalls Black making vulgar and obnoxious comments, but her immediate fear was banging the top of her skull on hard ground if Black wanted to," the statement said.
Blood rushed to her head, and Pierson "felt like she couldn't breathe, was dizzy, and may have temporarily lost consciousness," the lawsuit says, in which Pierson recalled "screaming in despair and yelled - but isn't sure what words came out of her upside down state."
Pierson says in the filing that she tried to break free of Black's "vicious grip" but could not.
"No doubt he knew that she did not consent," the filing reads.
"At 125 pounds and 5ft 8in and in complete physical control, Ms. Pierson had no ability to escape the physical power of Black's massive physique," it continues. "Then when Black put his mouth on her vagina and started biting her, Ms. Pierson was in excruciating pain. With the crown of her head just inches off the ground and her legs tied to his shoulders, she could only see the bottom wall closest to her. She had no idea what exactly he was doing to her to cause the tearing pain she was feeling, or what actions he was performing specifically during the act of violence. Ms. Pierson was in agony and had never experienced anything like it.”
It was only after Black got dressed and left Epstein's house that he introduced himself to Pierson, she claims.
"I'm Black," he said, "Black, my name is Leo [sic] Black," before driving off in a chauffeur-driven Town Car, according to the suit.
Pierson, who had no health insurance at the time, says she had a "vagina [which] was badly swollen, torn and bleeding." She says in her lawsuit that she used nonprescription products to "help with the pain and prevent infection through the cuts and tears," adding, "For several weeks, it was painful and difficult to urinate."
Pierson later confided in a friend what had happened, but the friend "reacted badly" and told Pierson that no one would believe her, the lawsuit states
"From then on, Ms. Pierson decided that she would no longer tell her story," it reads.
Epstein then gave Pierson's phone number to Black, who, according to the lawsuit, soon began stalking Pierson to see him again. He eventually convinced her to have dinner at the St. Regis Hotel, where Black handed Pierson $5,000 in $100 bills to help with her credit card debt, she claims. However, Pierson says she turned Black away and never willingly saw him again.
Pierson, a former model, met Epstein more than two decades ago while trying to raise her young child on a receptionist's salary, the lawsuit says, adding that Pierson "suffered some financial setbacks and had credit card debt."
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell pictured in 2005.
Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty
Sometime in 2000, Pierson received calls from an unnamed work acquaintance, described in the lawsuit as being of "Ukrainian descent." The woman told Pierson she wanted her to meet a "rich man" she knew and was keen to give him her number.
After initially ignoring the offer, Pierson received calls from Ghislaine Maxwell, the lawsuit states.
"Maxwell indicated that she knew Ms. Pierson needed money and suggested that, as a powerful businessman, Epstein was someone who could 'help,'" she explains. "In addition to raising a child as a single mother, Ms. Pierson dreamed of launching a skin care product but knew that realistically she didn't lack even a fraction of the money to do so. Ms. Pierson was passionate about the skincare product and needed money. Eventually she agreed to meet Epstein.”
When she showed up at Epstein's lavish Manhattan townhouse, she was ushered into an office where Maxwell was seated behind a large desk, according to the lawsuit. She told Pierson that Epstein was the person who "picks models for Victoria's Secret," which Pierson found "strange," according to the filing.
"Although she looked much younger than her age and continued to model, she knew she would not be seriously considered as a Victoria's Secret model," the lawsuit reads.
When she was finally introduced to Epstein, Pierson says he "told her all about how he was 'making money for rich people' and being a philanthropist," the lawsuit says. "Just when Ms. Pierson was thinking about telling Epstein about her skin care product, Epstein said, 'I'm a massage slut...I get 2-3 massages a day, a lot of women do it and they do it very well.'" Epstein said that he would pay Ms Pierson $300 to massage him in a bikini for 20 minutes and she did it.”
According to the lawsuit, Pierson served Epstein four more times. Each time, "Epstein masturbated and wanted her to perform oral sex on him as part of the massage," but Pierson says she declined.
"Epstein wasn't happy and said she needed to 'do more,'" the lawsuit reads, explaining that Pierson briefly distanced himself from Epstein as the 2001 wound wound down. Desperate for money, however, she contacted him again in the first months of 2002, according to the lawsuit. This time Epstein sent her a card with $300 in it without expecting a return massage, the filing says.
Shortly thereafter, Pierson says Epstein introduced her to Black.
Pierson is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified sum in damages, full payment of her attorneys' fees, and an injunction prohibiting Black from "engaging in any further such illegal conduct."
Leon Black, Founder of Apollo Global Management.
Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS
Court records in Ganieva's case show that Ganieva and Doe reported their allegations of sexual violence to the Manhattan Attorney's Office. However, prosecutors have not filed any charges since then.
Last month, the Financial Times reported that Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, a senior prosecutor handling the sexual assault allegations against Black, took a job at Perry Guha LLP, the firm representing the billionaire. Still, a New York judge last week denied Wigdor LLP's motion to disqualify Perry Guha from defending Black in the Ganieva litigation because of Illuzzi-Orbon's recent move to her office.
On Monday, Black's attorney, Susan Estrich, called Pierson's claims "categorically false and part of a plan to extort money from Mr. Black by threatening to destroy his reputation," alluding to the latest salvo of Black's involvement with Ganieva's attorneys.
"This campaign began almost 18 months ago when Wigdor customer Guzel Ganieva filed three separate complaints alleging false and defamatory allegations against Mr Black," Estrich said in a statement. “These claims were completely refuted by objective, contemporaneous evidence, leading to Wigdor filing (and then rejecting) false legal theories not once, not twice, but thrice.”
"Caught in the act, Wigdor is now raising false allegations about a second wife about events that allegedly took place more than two decades ago," Estrich continued. “This serial abuse of the judicial process cannot stand. We intend to dismiss these baseless allegations and to pursue all our legal remedies to hold the Wigdor company legally accountable for their abusive conduct and abuse of the courts.”
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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