Financier and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) trustee Leon Black has been accused for the second time in as many years of raping someone at Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion. The latest accusations, made in a lawsuit filed on 25 July in federal court in Manhattan, outline in graphic detail an encounter between Black and the plaintiff—identified by the pseudonym Jane Doe—in 2002, when she was only 16 years old.
The complaint notes that Doe has autism and “developmentally she [was] about 12” at the time of the alleged incident. Following an extensive and brutal grooming period that allegedly involved an abusive cheerleading programme and visits to Epstein’s properties in Florida and the US Virgin Islands, she was introduced to Black by Epstein inside the latter’s Upper East Side townhouse in late spring or early summer of 2002. Black then allegedly led her to a massage room and raped her. The encounter left Doe bleeding but, according to the complaint, “Epstein refused to take her to a doctor, and instead said that Ghislaine Maxwell would take care of it”. (Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan jail cell in the summer of 2019 while facing federal sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges; Maxwell is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for her role in Epstein’s scheme to sexually exploit and abuse minors.)
Doe is seeking damages and compensation commensurate with her physical injuries, emotional distress and monetary damages resulting from the alleged incident, to be determined at trial. She is being represented by the New York law firm Wigdor, which is also representing plaintiffs in two other sexual-violence complaints against Black. In the first instance, the former Russian model Guzel Ganieva sued Black in 2021, claiming that he had “sexually harassed and abused” her for several years. In 2022, plaintiff Cheri Pierson alleged that Black had raped her in the “massage suite” of Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse. In both prior instances, spokespeople for Black denied the allegations and vowed to prove them false.
In statements to The Washington Post regarding this week’s allegations in Doe’s complaint, a lawyer for Black said the accusations “are totally made up” and “entirely uncorroborated”, and accused Wigdor of having a “vendetta” against Black.
Earlier this month, Black reached a settlement with the US Virgin Islands whereby he will pay $62.5m and be exempted from legal claims there related to sex-trafficking operations run by Epstein, who owned two private islands there.
Black was serving as MoMA’s board chairman when his ties to Epstein and the extent of the allegations against the latter came to light. An open letter signed by more than 150 artists, arts workers and museum administrators was circulated, calling on Black to be removed as board chair. In the aftermath of those revelations, Black stepped down as chairman of his private equity firm Apollo Global Management and opted not to seek re-election as MoMA’s board chair. Black was succeeded as chair of the museum’s board by Marie-Josée Kravis in 2021; he remains on MoMA’s board of trustees.
Black has donated or supported the acquisition of two dozen works in MoMA’s permanent collection. In 2018, Black and his wife Debra donated $40m toward the museum’s expansion and renovation project; consequently, its cinema complex is named the Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center.
Spokespeople for MoMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new allegations against Black.