Two months after former Life or Death PR founder Heathcliff Berru stepped down from his company amid claims from several women that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them, the disgraced publicist has been served with his first legal action in the matter. Yasmine Kittles of the electronic duo Tearist wrote on her Facebook page that she filed a complaint against Berru for sexual battery in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“After seeing how many women came forward after us I knew I had to do something more than just comment about it,” Kittles wrote. “He has to be stopped and others like him have to know that women will report them. We have to stop the cycle. It will not be easy, and it’s scary as hell. But we have the power to change things… if we want to.” Kittles thanked her supporters and said she launched the legal action “not just for me but for all others to know they are not alone.”
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office told Billboard that the LAPD will investigate Kittles’ complaint (noting that a citizen cannot file charges, but only lodge a complaint) and, depending on their findings, will forward the results of that investigation to the DA’s office for possible felony charges or the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office for possible misdemeanor charges.
Kittles, the first alleged victim to take legal action, said Berru assaulted her in her L.A. home in May 2011 and again at a New York bar six months later. Berru resigned from his position as Life or Death CEO on Jan. 19 and issued a statement that he would be entering rehab for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction; Life or Death dissolved in the wake of the multiple claims, with its remaining employees starting a new venture.
In Berru’s statement on Jan. 20 he said he was “deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel. If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse, of course.”
After Dirty Projectors‘ Amber Coffman came forward with allegations of harassment by Berru, a number of other women in the music industry shared disturbingly similar stories of unwanted advances, which allegedly ranged from verbal abuse to inappropriate touching and assault.
Berru broke his silence in late February in an interview from a California rehab facility, where he apologized for his actions, but would not admit to drugging or raping anyone, as some of his accusers have claimed. “I’ve surrendered everything,” Berru said by phone. “I look at the things I did, I have to say this: My behavior was wildly inappropriate, hurtful and terrible. But I have never raped or drugged anyone. I can’t accept that.”
After Coffman came forward on Jan. 18 in a tweet about a “popular music publicist” who she said “RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar,” Kittles related a similar tale of harassment, saying the same person “grabbed my ass and then held me down onto my couch.”
Thank you @Amber_Coffman in 2009 he grabbed my ass and then held me down onto my couch as he unzipped his pants &forced my hand on his dick.
— TEARIST (@_TEARIST_) January 19, 2016
Billboard has reached out to Kittles and Berru for comment.