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Financier Leon Black accused in lawsuit of raping woman in Jeffrey Epstein’s New York mansion

Black, a co-founder of the investment firm Apollo Global Management, stepped down as head of the firm after an independent review of his ties to Epstein last year.
Leon Black, Chairman, CEO and Director, Apollo Global Management, LLC, speaks at the Milken Institute's 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. May 1, 2018.
Leon Black in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 1, 2018.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters/Alamy file

A former financier and associate of Jeffrey Epstein was sued Monday on allegations that he raped a woman in Epstein’s New York City mansion in spring 2002, according to court filings. 

Attorneys for Cheri Pierson, who filed the suit Monday in New York state court in Manhattan, said the “brutal attack” by Leon Black took place in a suite of the luxury townhouse that contained a massage table and was connected to a bathroom, according to court filings. 

Black stepped down as head of the investment firm Apollo Global Management, which he co-founded, after an independent review of his ties to Epstein last year. The review, carried out by a New York law firm, declared that Black wasn’t involved in Epstein’s criminal activities. 

“Black had the opportunity and the means to rape Ms. Pierson that day because their meeting was pre-arranged by his close friend and confidant, Epstein,” the lawsuit alleges. 

Black’s attorney, Susan Estrich of Estrich Goldin, told NBC News that “we intend to defeat these baseless claims and to pursue all of our remedies to hold the [plaintiff’s firm] legally accountable for their abusive conduct and misuse of the courts.”

According to the suit, Epstein arranged for Pierson to meet the “powerful businessman” and give Black a massage for $300 at Epstein’s townhouse after she finished work. At the time, Epstein didn’t disclose Black’s name to Pierson, and she didn’t ask, according to the suit. The suit says that Pierson was a single mother living in New Jersey and that she was introduced to Epstein by Ghislaine Maxwell at the time. 

Epstein said Black “helps people” and “implied that he may be able to financially ‘help’ Ms. Pierson” with a skin care product she was trying to sell, according to court documents. 

Black is accused of using the edge of the massage table “as a fulcrum to leverage his physical power and to disable Ms. Pierson,” and “she recalls Black making vulgar and disgusting comments but her immediate fear was smashing the top of her skull into the hard floor if Black wanted to,” according to court documents.

Pierson alleges that “she recalls desperately yelling and screaming — but is unsure what words came out in her upside-down state.” Court documents add: “She tried to kick. She struggled to free her legs from his vicious grip, but he was too strong.” 

The filings say that after Pierson was raped, they left Epstein’s apartment and that outside “Black turned to Pierson and said ‘I am Black.’”

“Ms. Pierson looked at Black with a confused look, because she did not know his name and thought he oddly was referring to skin color. Black then said ‘Black, my name is Leo Black,’” according to the filings.

At the time, she didn’t have medical insurance and used over-the-counter medication for pain and to prevent infection, and “for several weeks, it was painful and difficult to urinate,” according to court documents. 

The lawsuit says a friend persuaded Pierson not to tell anyone because “no one would believe her.”

Pierson’s attorney, Jeanne Christensen of Wigdor, said that “thanks to the passage of the Adult Survivor’s Act, survivors of sexual violence like Ms. Pierson are able to seek the justice they deserve no matter how many years ago their trauma was suffered.”

“We look forward to holding Black and Epstein’s estate accountable for their appalling unlawful conduct as alleged in the complaint by our client,” she said in a statement.

Pierson’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether she spoke with medical or law enforcement officials about the alleged rape.

Another woman, Guzel Ganieva, sued Black last year, accusing him of rape and defamation, according to court filings. The lawsuit is ongoing in New York County Supreme Court. Black has denied the allegations and accused Ganieva of extortion, according to court filings. Christensen is also Ganieva’s attorney. 

The Epstein estate didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.