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Criminal justice reform activist and former prosecuting attorney, Adam Foss, has been charged with rape, according to New York City officials.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. announced the indictment on Tuesday, formally charging Foss with first-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault, according to a press release. Prosecutors say the former Boston attorney, whose primary residence is in Los Angeles, raped a 25-year-old woman on Oct. 21, 2017.
Based on court documents and on-record statements, prosecutors said the pair made arrangements to meet at a Midtown Manhattan hotel after about a month of “exchanging calls and texts” when the alleged rape took place.
“After the survivor repeatedly said ‘no’ to Foss’s sexual advances, the two fell asleep before Foss allegedly raped the woman as she slept,” the district attorney’s office stated.
Foss pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to the charges at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. His defense attorney, Robert Gottlieb, called the accusations “very disturbing,” citing a “historic[al] and stereotypical racial dynamic involving a Black man and a white woman.”
Through his lawyer, Foss said the interaction was consensual, according to the New York Post.
“The complaining [witness] has [on] numerous times made statements that reflect a consensual relationship that she wanted to continue, even after the date that she alleged that a crime occurred,” said Gottlieb. “There is evidence known to the prosecutors that even following the date at issue, the complaining witness sent texts and was sexting with our client in the hopes of continuing a sexual relationship.”
Officials didn’t release the name of the victim (as is the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office standard policy), although the crimes for which Foss is accused match allegations published by singer and writer Raegan Sealy in a 2020 Medium essay, as noted in the New York Times and the New York Post. Sealy published the blistering tell-all titled “The Wolf and the Whisper Network: A Rapist in a Feminist Tee,” accusing Foss of raping her in 2017.
“I’d never heard of him, but a quick Google [search] told me he was Adam John Foss, an ex-prosecutor whose 2016 TED Talk had over 2 million views,” Sealy wrote. “He’d worked with John Legend. Cool, I thought.”
Sealy stated she and Foss attended a four-day, star-studded conference where the two exchanged contact information before meeting in New York City about a week later. She said they “texted every day,” noting their correspondence was of a sexual nature.
Texts and banter became thought-provoking conversations leading to private discussions about Foss’s mental health before they allegedly met in a Manhattan hotel about a month later, where Foss appeared drunk.
“He started kissing me,” Sealy wrote. “We can make out, I thought. That’s fine. He’s clearly going to pass out soon. He was so very kissable. I let him take off my dress and pull down my underwear. Naked cuddles.”
“‘Stupid girl,’ someone would later tell me.”
Sealy gave a graphic account of the alleged assault, in which Sealy claimed Foss forced oral sex on her, to which Sealy claimed she said, “Adam, stop,” numerous times. According to Sealy, Foss eventually did stop before falling into a “drunken slumber, loudly snoring.”
Sealy stated she, too, fell asleep but was woken several hours later to Foss allegedly forcing sexual intercourse on her.
Sealy’s publication prompted more women to come forward with their accounts of alleged sexual abuse, as published in a joint essay written by a group of women titled “Adam John Foss: A Virus in the System.”
The accusations tarnished Foss’s reputation, prompting high-profile celebrities, including singer John Legend, to sever ties with Foss and issue an apology for “elevating” Foss’s public image in 2015 when Foss partnered with Legend’s Free America campaign to keep youths out of prison.
Sealy’s essay also prompted then-Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins to look into previous allegations of in-house misconduct when Foss worked as a prosecutor with the juvenile division between 2008 and 2016, according to NPR’s Boston news station WBUR.
Rollins, now U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts after a nomination by U.S. President Joe Biden, assumed the position as District Attorney in 2019, three years after Foss left the prosecutor’s office to launch the Prosecutor Impact Organization. (The organization, aimed at lowering incarceration rates through prosecutorial training, was no longer running by Tuesday afternoon).
A private law firm working at Rollins' behest found that Foss had “engaged in concerning conduct with at least two adult female office interns and students,” according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in 2021.
Rollins said that although Foss’s behavior was “troubling,” it was not grounds for criminal prosecution.
“We took the allegations very seriously, and we have already or are now putting in place policies, protocols, and procedures to ensure that the troubling behavior reported cannot happen again,” Rollins said in her statement. “That Mr. Foss’ behavior in Suffolk County was not ‘criminal’ is of no solace to the women his conduct impacted and harmed."
At the time, Foss said he had “seen recent social media postings” about the accusations, according to WBUR.
“I recognize that some of my callous and insensitive behavior has caused many people anguish, but I deny any allegations of nonconsensual sexual relations,” Foss stated.
The charges announced by Manhattan District Attorney Alving Bragg will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Shannon Lucey, Deputy Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, under the supervision of A.D.A. Nicole Blumberg, Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, and Joyce Smith, Chief of the Special Victims Division.
“I thank this brave survivor, who had the courage to come forward and share her story,” said Bragg. “Our Special Victims Division is survivor-centered and trauma-informed, and we encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of a sex crime to call our hotline at 1-212-335-9373. Our prosecutors, investigators, and service providers are available to help.”
Foss is currently out on supervised release and was ordered to surrender his passport, according to the New York Post. It was not immediately clear when Foss was scheduled for his next court appearance.
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