Sexual Assaults Lawsuit Against Terry Richardson and Trump Model Management LLC

Case name: Minerva Portillo v. Terry Richardson, Trump Model Management LLC, T-Management LLC, TMG Member, LLC, DJT Holdings LLC, and Annie Veltri

Case type: Sexual Violence, Title IX, and Victims’ Rights

Filed in: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Docket: Case No.: 1:23-cv-10237

Case Summary

On November 21, 2023, Sanford Heisler Sharp and Iuris&Factor filed a lawsuit against fashion photographer Terry Richardson, the now-defunct modeling agency Trump Model Management, and the agency’s shareholders on behalf of model Minerva Portillo. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Portillo was sexually assaulted by Mr. Richardson during a photoshoot in 2004, and that Trump Model Management continued to send Ms. Portillo to work with Mr. Richardson even after she voiced her concerns about him.

The alleged assaults occurred while Ms. Portillo, a resident of Spain, was working in New York. Her claims of battery, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are brought under the New York State Adult Survivors’ Act, which enables survivors of sexual assault to hold their abusers accountable during a one-year lookback window even if the underlying abuse occurred long ago. The Complaint also asserts claims against Terry Richardson, Trump Model Management LLC, and its shareholders under New York City’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, which also gives survivors a lookback window to file their claims. The Complaint requests a jury trial.

As detailed in the Complaint, many model-subjects have accused Mr. Richardson, a once-renowned fashion photographer who photographed the famous for such publications as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, of coercing them into performing sexual acts with him and/or his crew during shoots, often under threat of harm to their modeling careers if they refused.

As described in the Complaint, Ms. Portillo was a young fashion model from Spain with a budding global career when she was recruited by Trump Model Management and brought to the U.S. in 2004. She alleges that in May 2004, the agency sent her to be interviewed by Mr. Richardson, and Mr. Richardson wore only a robe to the meeting. Ms. Portillo reported the encounter to Trump Model Management, she alleges, but the agency booked her for a photoshoot in Mr. Richardson’s New York studio, anyway. There, the Complaint alleges, she was first given a beverage that caused her to feel dizzy and disoriented. During the photoshoot, Mr. Richardson began touching Ms. Portillo’s body without her consent, exposed his penis, and then pressed it against her lower back and buttocks before pulling Ms. Portillo down to her knees and forcing her to perform oral sex against her consent while his crew took photographs, the Complaint alleges. Afterward, Ms. Portillo was told to sign an undated release form that the Complaint alleges is invalid.

Trump Model Management ignored her concerns and sent Ms. Portillo on another assignment with Mr. Richardson the following day, at which he again forced her to perform oral sex and again had his crew photograph the assault, the Complaint alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Richardson profited from the photographs of the assaults of Ms. Portillo, including them in exhibitions and as part of a book without her written consent. Due to the sexually explicit nature of the photographs, Ms. Portillo’s modeling career came to a standstill, causing her substantial financial harm and forcing her to alter her appearance and change career paths, the Complaint alleges.