Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ lawyer criticizes searches of musician’s homes

An attorney for Sean “Diddy” Combs, who is the target of a federal investigation, has spoken out about the searches that took place at two of the musician’s homes on Monday.

Aaron Dyer, Diddy’s attorney, said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday: “Yesterday, there was a gross overuse of military-level force as search warrants were executed at Mr. Combs’ residences. There is no excuse for the excessive show of force and hostility exhibited by authorities or the way his children and employees were treated.”

Authorities searched Combs’ homes on Monday because he is a target of a federal investigation carried out by a Department of Homeland Security team that handles human trafficking crimes, according to a senior federal law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

The probe is being led by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York and carried out by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Transnational Organized Crime Division, the official told CNN. HSI is responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, including human trafficking, terrorism, narcotics smuggling and other organized criminal activity.

The investigation stems from many of the same sexual assault allegations put forth in several civil lawsuits against Combs, according to a second law enforcement source familiar with Monday’s searches. Combs has previously denied those allegations.

Heavily armed teams of HSI agents searched Combs’ homes in Los Angeles and the Miami area Monday – some riding in armored vehicles, in part because authorities believed Combs employs armed private security at each of his residences, the first source said.

Agents were processing paperwork on card tables outside the Miami-area home, and mobile command post vehicles were visible at both properties.

Agents were authorized to search for documents, phones, computers and other electronic devices that hold data or videos, the second law enforcement source said.

A law enforcement source earlier told CNN that Monday’s searches were related to an ongoing sex trafficking investigation.

HSI in New York said Monday it “executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation” in cooperation with local law enforcement and HSI units in Los Angeles and Miami, and would “provide further information as it becomes available.”

Dyer said Combs was “never detained” during the searches “but spoke to and cooperated with authorities.”

“Despite media speculation, neither Mr. Combs nor any of his family members have been arrested nor has their ability to travel been restricted in any way,” Dyer’s statement said. “This unprecedented ambush – paired with an advanced, coordinated media presence – leads to a premature rush to judgment of Mr. Combs and is nothing more than a witch hunt based on meritless accusations made in civil lawsuits.”

The statement added: “There has been no finding of criminal or civil liability with any of these allegations. Mr. Combs is innocent and will continue to fight every single day to clear his name.”

Combs and his twin teenage daughters were preparing to leave Miami for a planned spring break trip on Monday when the searches happened, a source close to Diddy and with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN. The source would not reveal Combs’ vacation destination or current whereabouts.

Those close to Diddy believe the scale of the federal operation at his Los Angeles and Miami-area homes was “overzealous,” that source said. The source echoed some of the criticism of law enforcement’s actions outlined in Dyer’s statement.

Diddy’s inner circle believes the media was tipped off about search of his Los Angeles home because a news helicopter was hovering above his residence before law enforcement breached his property, the source said.

Five lawsuits alleged sexual misconduct

Law enforcement officers ride a vehicle near a property belonging to Sean "Diddy" Combs on Monday in Los Angeles. - Eric Thayer/AP
Law enforcement officers ride a vehicle near a property belonging to Sean "Diddy" Combs on Monday in Los Angeles. - Eric Thayer/AP

Combs has been accused of sexual misconduct in five separate lawsuits filed in recent months – allegations the star has repeatedly denied. It is unclear which allegations are included in the federal probe.

In November, singer Casandra “Cassie” Ventura filed a lawsuit against Combs, her former boyfriend, in federal court in New York’s southern district. The suit alleged alleged Combs raped her, forced her to engage in sex trafficking and subjected her to years of other abuses. The two parties settled the suit days later.

The decision to settle the suit was “in no way an admission of wrongdoing,” Ben Brafman, an attorney for Combs, told CNN in a statement at the time. “Mr. Combs’ decision to settle the lawsuit does not in any way undermine his flat-out denial of the claims. He is happy they got to a mutual settlement and wishes Ms. Ventura the best.”

A week later, Joi Dickerson-Neal filed a suit in New York accusing Combs of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 1991. She also alleged she was a victim of “revenge porn” by the music artist.

In December, an anonymous woman referred to as Jane Doe filed a federal lawsuit accusing Combs of sex trafficking and gang rape in 2003, when she was 17.

In court filings, Combs formally denied the allegations made in the December suit. He told the court the lawsuit should be dismissed because the woman’s “decision to wait more than two decades to file her complaint has prejudiced” him because he has “lost the ability to defend himself fully and fairly.” He also argued the evidence may now be “unavailable, lost, or compromised” and that “witness identification, availability, and recollections are likely compromised due to the substantial passage of time.”

Further, one of Combs’ former employees, producer and videographer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones, filed a lawsuit last month accusing Combs of sexual assault and leading a “widespread and dangerous criminal sex trafficking organization,” among other allegations. The suit was filed in federal court in New York’s southern district.

Combs’ attorney denied the allegations and called Jones’ claims “lies.”

“His reckless name-dropping about events that are pure fiction and simply did not happen is nothing more than a transparent attempt to garner headlines. We have overwhelming, indisputable proof that his claims are complete lies,” Diddy’s attorney, Shawn Holley, said last month.

Additionally, in an amended complaint on March 12, initially filed in New York in November, Liza Gardner accused Combs and singer Aaron Hall of battery and sexual assault in 1990, when she was 16 years old.

According to the suit, Gardner and a friend met Combs and Hall, at the time a member of the R&B group Guy, at an event. At a dinner afterward, Combs and Hall were “very flirtatious and handsy” with Gardner and her friend and offered them drinks throughout the night, despite being underage, the suit states.

Combs and Hall then invited the two to Hall’s apartment for an afterparty, at which point Gardner was “offered more drinks and was physically forced into having sex with Combs against her will.” She was “shocked and traumatized,” the suit states, and as she was getting dressed, Hall came into the room, pinned her down and forced her to have sex. She then got dressed and ran out of the apartment, the suit states.

The next day, an “irate” Combs came to the home where she and her friend were staying and “began assaulting and choking Ms. Gardner to the point that she passed out,” the lawsuit states.

CNN has reached out to Hall for comment. He has not yet publicly spoken about the allegations.

In a December statement, Combs denied the claims in all the suits.

“Enough is enough. For the last couple of weeks, I have sat silently and watched people try to assassinate my character, destroy my reputation and my legacy,” Combs said. “Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

Several of the lawsuits allege that the misconduct was captured on video.

In Ventura’s suit, she said Combs used his phone, laptop and tablet to film their sexual interactions. In Dickerson-Neal’s suit, she alleged she was a victim of “revenge porn,” saying Combs filmed her sexual assault and showed the video to others. And in Jones’ suit, he alleged he has “hundreds of hours of footage and audio recordings of Mr. Combs, his staff, and his guests engaging in serious illegal activity.”

Member of Combs’ circle arrested on drug charges

Also Monday, a 25-year-old man who is part of Combs’ circle was arrested on drug charges at Miami-Opa locka Executive Airport, according to an arrest affidavit. Brendan Paul was taken into custody while HSI investigators executed search warrants at Combs’ homes in Miami Beach and Los Angeles.

The arresting officers were working with DHS and Customs and Border Protection, Paul’s arrest affidavit reads.

Paul, a former Syracuse University basketball player from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana-laced candy. Miami-Dade police officers said the drugs were found inside his personal travel bags. Paul spent the night at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and bonded out Tuesday morning, according to the Miami-Dade clerk of the court and comptroller. Paul’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for April 24 at 9 a.m.

Combs’ name is not mentioned in Paul’s arrest affidavit.

Paul is referenced in Jones’ lawsuit against Combs and other co-defendants, but Jones did not bring any claims against Paul. Jones’ complaint describes Paul as “Mr. Combs’ mule” who “acquires, and distributes Mr. Combs’ drugs, and guns.”

“We do not plan on trying this case in the media – all issues will be dealt with in court,” Brian Bieber, an attorney for Paul, told CNN when asked for comment about Monday’s arrest and the allegations in Jones’ suit.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Josh Campbell, Elizabeth Wagmeister, Nicki Brown and Holmes Lybrand contributed to this report.

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