21 May 2024

Why won't Sean 'Diddy' Combs be charged with assault of ex-girlfriend Cassie Ventura?

1:15 pm on 21 May 2024
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Cassie (L) and Sean 'Diddy' Combs aka Puff Daddy attend the "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.   Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com/AFP (Photo by Mike Coppola / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)


This story discusses graphic details of rape and sexual assault

Sean 'Diddy' Combs has apologised for a 2016 incident in which he physically assaulted his then-girlfriend Cassie Ventura, two days after surveillance footage of the attack was published online by CNN.

The graphic security footage, compiled from multiple angles, shows Combs grabbing, shoving, dragging and kicking Ventura as she attempts to exit a hotel lobby.

"My behaviour in that video was inexcusable," Combs said in an Instagram statement. "I was disgusted then when I did it. I'm disgusted now."

A screenshot of a video released by CNN appearing to show Sean 'Diddy' Combs assaulting singer Casandra 'Cassie' Ventura in a hotel hallway in 2016.

A screenshot of a video released by CNN appearing to show Sean 'Diddy' Combs assaulting singer Casandra 'Cassie' Ventura in a hotel hallway in 2016. Photo: CNN

Combs had previously denied Ventura's allegations of assault, which were the basis of a now-settled federal lawsuit filed in November 2023.

The lawsuit claimed that Combs was sexually and physically violent throughout their relationship, which began not long after they met in 2005, when she was 19 and he was 37.

The suit alleged that Combs forced Ventura to have sex with male sex workers in different cities, while he masturbated, filmed and took photos. He also allegedly supplied her with drugs, which she took because they "allowed her to disassociate from these horrific encounters". Ventura was allegedly subject to frequent beatings "multiple times a year" and claimed that Combs had an astounding level of control over her life, from her career to having access to her personal medical records.

The court filing also alleges that Combs broke into Ventura's home in 2018 after the two met for dinner, and raped her while she "repeatedly said 'no' and tried to push him away".

The recent CNN video dates back to 5 March 2016 and aligns with the allegations outlined in Ventura's 2023 suit. However, Combs is unlikely to be charged for the hotel lobby incident.

University of Auckland Associate Professor of Law, Carrie Leonetti, explains why.

Why can't Diddy be charged for assault?

(FILES) Sean P. Diddy Combs with Cassie Ventura attend the premiere of 'The Perfect Match' at the Arclight Theatre in Los Angeles on March 7, 2016. Rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs apologized on May 19, 2024 after surveillance video surfaced showing him physically assaulting his then-girlfriend Casandra Ventura in 2016. Combs is the target of several civil lawsuits that characterize him as a violent sexual predator who used alcohol and drugs to subdue his victims, and his homes were raided this year by federal agents. (Photo by Chris Delmas / AFP)


The Statute of Limitations states criminal charges have to be brought within a particular period of time after the alleged crime has occurred.

"My understanding is the LA County District Attorney's Office said they can't charge Combs with the assault that's depicted in the video, because it's the passed the Statute of Limitations, which would've lapsed in 2019."

Can he still be charged with rape?

While California has a Statute of Limitations for assault, there is no Statute of Limitations for rape, Leonetti explains.

"In her civil lawsuit last year, Ventura alleged not only that he physically assaulted her and psychologically assaulted her, but also that he repeatedly raped her and forced her to have sex with other men. California has no statute of limitations for rape, so it is true that they can't charge him with the assault that's depicted in the video, but they could still charge him with rape.

"When the [2023 allegations emerged] he publicly announced that all her allegations were baseless, outrageous lies - he flat out denied all of it - and clearly the assault happened. It seems to me that if they charged him with rape, it would be her word against his, and he has already demonstrably lied about other events in their relationship. They could charge him with raping her, and his credibility if he denied that would be very poor, because he denied the assault, and the assault very clearly happened.

How did the 2023 allegations emerge?

(FILES) US producer-musician Sean "Diddy" Combs poses with the Global Icon award in the press room during the MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on September 12, 2023. Once hip hop's flashy impresario credited with commercializing the genre, Sean "Diddy" Combs has seen his star plunge as federal authorities raid his homes amid sex trafficking accusations and assault lawsuits. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP

New York's Adult Survivors Act, created in November 2022, allowed a one-year relief from the civil Statute of Limitations for sexual abuse claims, which is how Venture was able to bring her civil suit in 2023 to begin with.

"A bunch of lawsuits got filed the week before the one-year relief lapsed, including a bunch against Sean Combs, so she was only able to bring her civil suit because she had claims of sexual abuse, not just physical abuse."

Why does the Statute of Limitations exist?

The original purpose of the Statute of Limitations was two-fold, Leonetti explains.

"The first is this idea of repose, that even if people do terrible things, they have a right not to have it always hanging over their heads for an indefinite period of time. I think very few people find that to be a compelling argument - most people feel that if you did a horrible thing, it should hang over your head until it's discovered and charged. That was the original idea, that if enough time has passed, they have the right to not have charges later brought against them.

"The Statute of Limitations also exists because evidence gets worse over time, it deteriorates over time, witnesses die or become unavailable, so it's thought to impair the defendant's right to a fair trial if charges are brought too long after the crime occurred, because they can't mount an effective defence. And it's hard to mount an alibi defence if you're charged with something you did 12 years ago, how would you remember now where you were 12 years ago and go about proving it?

"That's why the Statute of Limitations has traditionally existed, but the trend globally and increasingly in America, has been either to lengthen them or to eliminate them. As we've become more aware of the rights of survivors, people are less and less empathetic to the idea that the victim doesn't get their day in court because of the passage of time.

"If you take something like a rape case, it's going to be her testimony against his, and that's not going to change over time. She's not going to forget if he raped her or not, he's not going to forget if he raped her or not, and the other men he allegedly made her have sex with aren't going to forget whether that happened or not."

What if this happened in New Zealand? Would the same rules apply?

We don't have a Statute of Limitations for crimes in New Zealand, Leonetti explains.

"The passage of time often makes prosecution more difficult, so if key witnesses are no longer available, a prosecutor might not bring charges because they don't think they can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. But no, the Statute of Limitations don't apply."

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