Home Music

Marilyn Manson Sued for Sexual Assault of a Minor

Musician’s former labels Interscope and Nothing Records also named as defendants in first suit to focus on alleged sex crimes from early in singer’s career

Marilyn Manson

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Marilyn Manson allegedly groomed and sexually assaulted an underage girl multiple times in the 1990s, according to a new lawsuit. This is the first suit to focus on sex crimes that allegedly took place in the beginning of Manson’s career, while those who have previously sued the singer all accused him of sexual misconduct around 2010.

Manson, whose real name is Brian Warner, is listed as a defendant alongside his former labels Interscope and Nothing Records. The plaintiff, now an adult, has submitted the suit anonymously as “Jane Doe.” The filing includes counts of sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Warner, and negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges, against the labels. The case was filed in Nassau County Supreme Court on Long Island, New York.

In the lawsuit, Doe says she first encountered Warner in 1995 after a Dallas concert when she was age 16. She had waited outside his tour bus with a group of people to meet him, and he allegedly invited her “and one of the other younger girls” onto his bus where he asked their age and school grade and took down their home addresses and phone numbers.

“While on the tour bus, Defendant Warner performed various acts of criminal sexual conduct upon Plaintiff, who was a virgin at the time, including but not limited to forced copulation and vaginal penetration,” the lawsuit claims. The age of consent in Texas at the time was, and still is, 17. “One of the band members watched Defendant Warner sexually assault Plaintiff,” the suit says. “Plaintiff was in pain, scared, upset, humiliated and confused. After he was done, Defendant Warner laughed at her. … Then Defendant Warner demanded Plaintiff to ‘get the fuck off of my bus’ and threatened Plaintiff that, if she told anyone, he would kill her and her family.”

Doe alleges that a crew member gave her a 1-800 number for the band and a password so she and Warner could meet again. She began using drugs and alcohol shortly after the alleged sexual assault, the suit says, and would continue to abuse substances in subsequent years. Doe claims in the suit that Warner would call her and chat with her online asking for explicit photos of her and her friends.

Before the year was up, Warner allegedly convinced Doe, who was still 16, to travel to a New Orleans concert where she met with Warner, who, the suit says, “groomed” her by complimenting her artwork. “Defendant Warner then became more aggressive and again sexually assaulted Plaintiff, including kissing, biting her breast, oral copulation, and penetration,” the complaint says. “After the second assault, Defendant Warner acted in a kinder manner nicer to Plaintiff and told her that he wanted to see her again.” (The age of consent in Louisiana at the time was, and still is, 17.)

Doe continued her contact with Warner and his band. At age 18, she started dating then-Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna, who allegedly urged her to move to Los Angeles. While there, she attended a Marilyn Manson concert where a band member encouraged her to attend a 1999 Dallas concert. She also went to the next show, in New Orleans, where a crew member helped her get backstage for an audience with Warner. A member of Warner’s retinue allegedly told her he would continue to give her backstage passes. “The atmosphere backstage always included the availability of large amounts of drugs for her and others to use,” according to the suit. She claims she spent the next four weeks on the road with the group, taking drugs and spending hours with Warner in which he’d “groom, harass, and sexually abuse” her.

During this period, the suit alleges that Warner began tightening his psychological control over Doe, as she continued to accompany him on tour dates. “While she was still a child, Defendant Warner had purposefully and intentionally laid the groundwork necessary to intimidate and control her,” it says. “Despite reaching the legal age of majority, that power to psychologically intimidate and control Plaintiff was still present. … While in Florida, Plaintiff considered going back home. Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Warner and revealed her vulnerabilities and a general lack of support she felt from her family. As he did on countless occasions, Defendant Warner exploited this vulnerability to keep Plaintiff under his control. Defendant Warner often made Plaintiff feel alone and isolated by telling her that no one understands her other than him, which included her family. At the time, Plaintiff believed Defendant Warner and was compelled to keep following him.”

He continued this pattern throughout the time they spent together, Doe alleges, claiming that when she was 19, Warner “perpetuated his grooming, manipulation, exploitation and sexual assault of Plaintiff” over the course of approximately a month.

“Throughout the tour and while within the State of New York, when Plaintiff was with Defendant Warner both on concert days and on off days, Defendant Warner coerced her to have sex with him,” the suit claims. “Defendant Warner often coerced Plaintiff to have sex with him and other band members or his assistant at the same time. Defendant Warner controlled what Plaintiff could do, who could touch Plaintiff, and who he wanted Plaintiff to be with sexually, all while providing Plaintiff with drugs.”

Among other charges, Doe is suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming that Warner’s “emotional manipulation” included “hostile and verbally abusive behavior.” “At times, he began ridiculing Plaintiff, especially in the presence of other young female fans,” the suit says. “Defendant Warner openly called her racial slurs and called her fat. At other times, Defendant Warner told Plaintiff she was beautiful and confided in her some of his most personal secrets. Plaintiff saw Defendant Warner almost every day (except when his fiancée was in town), before, during, and after his shows.”

On one date of the 1999 tour, Doe refused to accompany Warner in his room, according to the filing, because she was afraid of how Warner “had been sexually violent with Plaintiff in the past” and claims he treated her more abusively after that. (A representative for Warner did not immediately reply to a request for comment.)

“This suit by this survivor is a giant step in bringing light and heat to an industry that has been hiding perils in plain sight. It’s time to face the music.”

Doe’s attorney Jeff anderson

A substantial part of the lawsuit claims that Warner’s record labels “were well-aware of Defendant Warner’s obsession with sexual violence and childhood sexual assault.” Marilyn Manson was Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor’s first signing to his Nothing Records imprint, which was a subsidiary of Interscope. In the lawsuit, Doe alleges that Interscope and Nothing should have safeguarded her from their client’s alleged behavior. “At no time did Defendant Interscope and Defendant Nothing Records have a reasonable system or procedure in place to investigate, supervise, or monitor its staff and/or agents, including Defendant Warner, to prevent pre-sexual grooming and sexual harassment, molestation, and assault of fans, including minors and women,” the suit says. (Representatives for Interscope and its parent company Universal Music Group did not immediately reply to requests for comment.)

In 2021, Reznor addressed a resurfaced passage from Warner’s 1998 autobiography The Long Hard Road Out of Hell in which Warner claims he and Reznor allegedly physically and sexually assaulted a woman in the 1990s.

“I have been vocal over the years about my dislike of Manson as a person and cut ties with him nearly 25 years ago,” Reznor said at the time. “As I said at the time, the passage from Manson’s memoir is a complete fabrication. I was infuriated and offended back when it came out and remain so today.”

“Defendants Interscope and Nothing Records were aware of Defendant Warner’s practice of sexually assaulting minors, and aided and abetted such behavior,” the filing claims. “As a result of Brian Warner’s sexual abuse and assault, enabled and encouraged by Defendants Interscope and Nothing Records, Plaintiff has suffered severe emotional, physical, and psychological distress, including shame, and guilt, economic loss, economic capacity and emotional loss.”

The suit’s claims of negligence against the labels stem from not preventing Warner from allegedly carrying out his abuses on tours they helped finance. “Defendant Interscope and Nothing Records expressly and implicitly represented that the band members, including Defendant Warner, were not a sexual threat to their fans and others who would fall under Defendant Warner’s influence, control direction, and guidance,” the lawsuit claims.

Doe is seeking damages to be determined at trial and an “order enjoining Defendants from future unlawful business practices including, but not limited to, exposing minors and vulnerable adults to sexual abuse and exploitation,” among other prayers for relief.

“This suit by this survivor is a giant step in bringing light and heat to an industry that has been hiding perils in plain sight. It’s time to face the music. New laws give survivors the time to take real action for justice and protection,” Doe’s attorney, Jeff Anderson, says in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Powerful new laws in New York and California give adult survivors the chance to take legal action against predators and those that protect and profit from them.

“We are grateful to the survivors and so many others who now align with us to expose the predators and those in the music industry that have … permitted, promoted, and profiteered from his violence against the vulnerable,” Anderson adds.

“This lawsuit goes beyond the named predator and targets the record labels that packaged and profited from their artist’s criminal behavior, and it is an indictment of the music industry for maintaining a culture that celebrates, protects, and enables sexual predators,” Karen Barth Menzies of KBM Law, an attorney also representing Doe, tells Rolling Stone.

Anderson, the lawyer who for decades has filed suits against the Roman Catholic Church over sexual abuse of children and raised widespread awareness of the scandal, is also representing a woman who recently sued Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler for sexual assault of a minor. Alongside individual cases, he says in a statement to Rolling Stone, he aims to use “the new laws to expose the perils [and] industry practices that profit from and promote sexual violence against the vulnerable, and the executives in the industry who profit from it and turn a blind eye. It’s time for cleansing and accountability.”

More than a dozen women have come forward with allegations against Warner over the past two years. Actress Evan Rachel Wood named him as the previously anonymous abuser she’d referenced in interviews and testimonies, on Instagram, on Feb. 1, 2021. “He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years,” she wrote. “I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission.”

In addition to sharing their stories publicly, several women, including Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco, model Ashley Morgan Smithline, and a former assistant of Warner’s, Ashley Walters, filed civil lawsuits against the singer. Each woman described a similar pattern of alleged grooming and sexual and physical abuse. The women spoke with Rolling Stone for an extensive investigation in 2021. Through his lawyer, Warner  “vehemently denie[d] any and all claims of sexual assault or abuse of anyone” in the Rolling Stone article.

“Victims of his felt completely ashamed that they still didn’t realize what was happening to them until it was way too late,” Bianco said. “He told the whole world and nobody tried to stop him.” Last week, Bianco and Warner reached an out-of-court settlement, whose terms were not disclosed.

Walters’ lawsuit was dismissed over the statute of limitations; Smithline’s was dismissed when she missed a key deadline. A fourth suit by another Jane Doe alleging Warner raped her in 2011 at his home is ongoing.

An investigation into alleged criminal abuse conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department about Warner concluded last fall when it submitted its findings to the L.A. District Attorney. The D.A.’s office has yet to comment on whether it will be pressing charges.

Last spring, Wood intensified her accusations against Warner in the HBO documentary, Phoenix Rising. In the two-part docuseries, she alleged he threatened her and her family if she spoke out and described how he had initially hit on her, saying he was a fan of the movie Thirteen. She was 14 when she appeared in the movie; he approached her at age 18.

Just before the release of Phoenix Rising, Warner filed a lawsuit against Wood and her friend Illma Gore alleging defamation, emotional distress, and “impersonation over the internet,” among other charges.

In an appearance on The View, Wood claimed she was not scared of the lawsuit. “I am very confident that I have the truth on my side and that the truth will come out,” she said. “This is clearly timed before the documentary. … I’m not doing this [film] to clear my name. I’m doing this to protect people. I’m doing this to sound the alarm that there is a dangerous person out there and I don’t want anybody getting near him. So people can think whatever they want about me. I have to let the legal process run its course, and I’m steady as a rock.”

Jane Doe v. Brian Warner, Interscope, Nothing Records

From Rolling Stone US