N.Y. police open preliminary investigation into sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons

Image: Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons speaking at an event in New York on July 18, 2015.Scott Roth / AP file

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By Tom Winter, Jonathan Dienst and Daniel Arkin

New York City police have opened a preliminary investigation into sexual assault allegations against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Simmons has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by at least five women — including three who told The New York Times that the co-founder of Def Jam Records raped them.

A spokesman for the rap impresario said Thursday evening that he "fully supports and will cooperate with the police inquiry and is confident of a swift resolution."

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Simmons, 60, has vehemently denied the allegations, saying in a statement provided to NBC News this week: "These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.

"I have enormous respect for the women's movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power," Simmons added.

Simmons, who spun his era-defining record label into an entertainment empire, stepped down from his companies last month following allegations of sexual misconduct from screenwriter Jenny Lumet and model Keri Claussen Khalighi.

"I have already apologized for the instances of thoughtlessness in my consensual relations. I have separated myself from my businesses and charities in order to not become a distraction," Simmons said in his statement Wednesday.

Russell Simmons speaking at an event in New York on July 18, 2015.Scott Roth / AP file

Related: Since Weinstein, here's the list of men accused of sexual misconduct

In an article published in The Times on Wednesday, three women — former Def Jam executive Drew Dixon, singer Tina Baker and music journalist Toni Sallie — went on the record to accuse Simmons of rape.

The women told The Times they decided to come forward after Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein was accused of serial sexual harassment and assault over decades, fueling the #MeToo movement and leading to other bombshell claims against powerful men in media and politics.

In a statement given to NBC News, Dixon said: "For the first time in 22 years, I am waking up to a world where the abuse I suffered during my career is finally in my past," adding that she hoped sharing her story would inspire other women in the music industry to come forward.