A Tennessee massage therapist filed a federal lawsuit accusing Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan of trafficking her for his own sexual gratification and turning a blind eye when his friend, former film producer Harvey Weinstein, sexually assaulted her.
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in California against Dolan, Weinstein and a music management company, centers around a 2013 Eagles concert tour that court papers say Dolan largely financed, and for which his band, JD & The Straight Shot, served as the opening act.
The plaintiff, Kellye Croft, 38, was traveling with the band as a massage therapist, court papers say. Croft claims in the lawsuit that Dolan repeatedly coerced her to have sex with him on the tour, and failed to take action when Weinstein, his close friend at the time, was “sexually aggressive” with her during a Los Angeles tour stop. Croft also says in court papers that the music management company that arranged her trip to California knew or should have known that Dolan was sexually exploiting her.
In a statement, Croft said she hopes her lawsuit will force Dolan to take responsibility for manipulating her and allowing Weinstein to attack her.
“I have suffered so profoundly because of what James Dolan and Harvey Weinstein did to me years ago, and it was not an easy decision to come forward and seek justice,” she said. “But for me, to truly address my trauma, I need to seek accountability.”
Croft is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
Attorney E. Danya Perry, who is representing Dolan, said in a statement there is “absolutely no merit” to the allegations against her client and that references to Weinstein in the lawsuit are “meant to inflame.” She also accused Croft’s attorney Douglas Wigdor — who has sued both Dolan and Weinstein in the past — of retaliation.
“Bottom line, this is not a he said/she said matter and there is compelling evidence to back up our position,” said Perry, founding partner of the Perry Law Firm.
Weinstein’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, said in an email that her client “vehemently denies these meritless allegations.” An attorney for Irving Azoff, a music manager and a close friend of Dolan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Croft meets Dolan on Eagles tour
Croft’s lawsuit begins with lyrics from a song Dolan wrote in the aftermath of media reports that uncovered widespread claims of sexual abuse against Weinstein: “I should’ve known/I should’ve known/I should’ve thrown/Myself across his tracks/Stopped him from these vile attacks/I should’ve known.”
Croft said in court papers she felt “horrified” when Dolan emailed her the song in 2018 — “not just by the mediocrity of Dolan’s music, but moreover by the blatant lie the song told,” because she said Dolan did know that Weinstein was a predator and didn’t protect her from him.
In 2013, according to the lawsuit, Croft, then 27, was working as a licensed massage therapist in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee when she was invited to join the Eagles on tour as a masseuse. While Croft was excited about what she expected would be a career-making opportunity, the lawsuit states, she also felt isolated on tour.
Croft claims Dolan, then 58, began to “flex his power” while she was giving him a massage on tour, pressuring her into unwanted sex. After the first incident, according to the lawsuit, Croft felt “terrified” and “obligated to submit” to his unwanted sexual advances on other occasions during the tour.
“Ms. Croft was disgusted by Dolan, but her youth and extreme loneliness while on the road with strangers, as well as Dolan’s immense power, made it possible for Dolan to manipulate Ms. Croft and lure her under his control,” the lawsuit states.
Croft claims a music management company owned by Dolan’s friend, Irving Azoff, then flew her to Los Angeles not to do her job but to sexually exploit her. Sometimes, he acted romantically, and Croft believed he “actually cared about her.” But Croft spent most of the trip in her hotel room, feeling isolated, the lawsuit says.
Encounter with Weinstein
One night, according to the lawsuit, Croft ended up with Weinstein on an elevator in her hotel She said Weinstein told her he was one of Dolan’s “best friends” and said he’d heard great things about his massage therapist. Croft claims Weinstein offered her work as a massage therapist for actors on his movie sets and invited her to his hotel room to discuss the matter.
Croft’s lawsuit then accuses Weinstein of repeatedly pressuring her to massage him and getting angry when she told him she would only perform a proper massage with a table and a sheet. When she tried to escape, the suit states, the movie producer followed her into her hotel room, forced her onto her bed and sexually assaulted her. Dolan called during the assault, according to the lawsuit, and Weinstein left after reminding Croft that he and Dolan were best friends.
That night, Croft claims, she went to Dolan’s room and told him Weinstein had been “sexually aggressive” with her. According to the lawsuit, Dolan was not surprised that Croft had run into his friend at the hotel and said Weinstein was a “troubled person” with “serious issues.” He allegedly told Croft that his friends were trying to get him to deal with those issues. But he didn’t “help her report” what had happened, the lawsuit states.
“Indeed, with his comments, Ms. Croft felt that Dolan completely dismissed the gravity of the situation and did not truly care about what his friend had done to her,” the suit claims.
Croft’s lawsuit accuses Dolan of “facilitating, enabling and aiding” her encounter with Weinstein.
Over the next few days, Croft felt so unwell that she saw a doctor and called out sick from work, according to the lawsuit. She says she was “wracked with shame and disgust” and left the tour feeling “heartbroken and traumatized.”
When Croft returned to Tennessee, she claims, she started to have panic attacks before massage appointments. She abandoned her career in massage therapy and also turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the shame she felt, according to her lawsuit.