WARNING: This article includes accounts of sexual assault and may be distressing for some readers. Resources for support are listed at the end of this article
In early August, DJ Erick Morillo was arrested and charged with the sexual battery of a woman with whom he’d DJ'd at a private party in Miami in December last year. The victim, who went back to Morillo’s house with another woman after the party, reported rejecting Morillo’s advances numerous times before feeling tired and going to an upstairs bedroom alone to sleep, fully clothed. When she woke up, she was naked in the bed and Morillo was standing over her, also naked. She felt pain and was having “flashes” of him sexually assaulting her, according to police reports. Morillo had repeatedly denied the allegations, but turned himself into the police, accompanied by his attorney, when a rape kit tested positive for his DNA. On September 1, three days before he was due to face court, Morillo was found dead at his Miami home. The cause of death has not yet been released but local police have said there were no apparent signs of foul play.
In the days afterwards, as Morillo’s fans, friends and peers mourned him publicly, some began to question these glowing tributes, especially those from other high-profile DJs. The man had been charged with sexual battery. Where was the focus on that?
Slowly, as female DJs began to express their solidarity with assault victims and share their own stories of being assaulted by Morillo, more and more women started to come forward and talk about their own negative, often abusive experiences with Morillo on social media.
Mixmag has spent the past week collecting some of these stories, and others, shared by both women and men. In addition to the information gathered below, which includes firsthand and secondhand accounts of rape, sexual assault, physical violence and verbal abuse, Mixmag has also spoken with a number of other people who believe they may have been raped by Morillo, or who say they know someone who was raped by Morillo. These people do not want to make statements, either because they are afraid of retaliation, because they do not want to relive the trauma, or because they have no memory of exactly what happened after they blacked out in Morillo’s company.
These are the stories that were told to Mixmag about Erick Morillo. Mixmag believes that these accounts need to be shared, both to support those who believe they are Morillo’s victims, many of whom have suffered in silence for years, and to encourage other victims of sex offences in the industry to come forward. Many names in this article have been changed to protect victims and sources. Mixmag is reporting these accounts as they were told to Mixmag, without embellishing or making any changes to what was said. In using the word “victim” in this piece, Mixmag is not judging legal guilt, but reporting the multiple accounts where people believe themselves to have been victims of sexual offences or other abusive behavior committed by Morillo.
Jasmine* was a big fan of house music and of Erick Morillo when she met him for the first time at a club in Miami where he was DJing in 2010. Morillo invited Jasmine to come to his house afterwards for an afterparty. There were others there, men and women, no one Jasmine knew, but after about an hour, “shit just got weird,” she says. There were a lot of drugs being taken and there was an orgiastic vibe in the air. “I’ve been around the block, I’ve seen things, I’m not stupid,” Jasmine says. “I knew that was going to go on.” She decided to leave and quietly slipped out the front door. She was worried that if she told anyone she was leaving, she’d be coerced into staying. Morillo lived in a gated community so Jasmine had to climb the fence to get out without alerting anyone. She hailed a taxi and did not see Morillo for another nine years. He befriended Jasmine on social media a few years ago and would offer to fly her out to meet him in other US cities where he was DJing. She declined his invitations. In late 2019, Morillo invited Jasmine to go to dinner with him in another US city where he was DJing and she was visiting for a work trip. His driver collected her in his car and drove them both to a fancy restaurant. It was a pleasant evening, in the beginning. “I was having fun with him, I mean, he was a very charming man,” Jasmine says. “And we had a great dinner, great conversation, he told me about being married, getting divorced, about the ketamine [his addiction], you know, like everything.” Morillo invited Jasmine back up to his hotel room after dinner. They were drinking 1942 tequila and playing Uno. Morillo then produced a baggie of pink powder. He said it came from Europe. “I can't remember what he said it was called, you know, there's so many drugs these days and so many of them are synthetic and manmade, and I was like, I've done coke so, you know, I'll try it,” says Jasmine. “I don't really remember much after that, I just remember waking up and seeing him, and I was naked. And he was naked.” Jasmine was in the bed and Morillo was standing at the side of the bed. “He was jumping around like a madman, he wasn’t acting belligerent or crazy or mean, he was just like, laughing.” Prior to her blacking out, there had been no kissing or physical contact between Jasmine and Morillo at all.
She felt “so weird” and told Morillo that she was going to sleep. When she woke a few hours later, Morillo didn’t want her to leave, so she said, “Oh, I’ll come back later.” She went back to her own hotel and spent the day in her room. She felt confused and unsettled by what had happened. Morillo kept asking her to come back to his hotel to have sex with him. When she politely declined, saying she felt tired and unwell, he became terse and dismissive and cut off the conversation.
Jasmine was wounded by his response and still unsure about what had happened the night before. She returned to her home city and tried not to think about it. It was only when she saw the news that Morillo had been arrested for sexual battery that she realised that he had drugged and raped her, too. Jasmine felt incredibly guilty about the victim who reported the rape, who was attacked by Morillo just a few weeks after she was.
“I was so sad because I was like, ‘Oh my God, maybe he felt like he could get away with it because he had gotten away with it with me,’” she says, her voice breaking. “I felt so, so bad and like I should have done something more.”
Jasmine was talking to her therapist on Friday morning, whom she had told about the rape. The therapist told Jasmine that others had come forward with stories about Morillo. It inspired Jasmine to come forward, too, later that evening. Mixmag also spoke with a friend of Jasmine’s, Renata*, who confirmed that Jasmine told her about the rape. “The next day she called me and told me what happened and that she really doesn't remember anything past this pink stuff that she snorted,” says Renata. “She just felt like something wrong had happened and she spent like the whole next day stuck in her hotel room because she just felt so grimy.”
Early 90s: Taylor*
Taylor* worked with Morillo for a period in the early ‘90s. She drove him to his home one night and when she declined his invitation to come inside he brutally physically assaulted her. When she looked up at him in shock and horror, he started apologising. She tearfully told him to get the fuck out of the car.
The next morning, she called Morillo and told him she would no longer be working with him. He was furious and insisted on collecting paperwork from her home the following day. He came, collected the paperwork and asked if he could smoke a joint. They smoked it together and afterwards, as she was walking him to the front door, he grabbed her by the hair, pulled her to the ground and raped her from behind. “Then he got up, and like, literally acted as if it was normal,” she says. “As if nothing had happened. Which made me feel mental, you know?”
Taylor felt that if she reported the rape, she’d be told it was her fault for letting Morillo come over after the initial assault. “I didn’t really think anyone would believe me back then, it was 25 years ago, you know?”
She told a few girlfriends about it at the time, then “swept it under the carpet.” “But it never went away, you know, I never got over it,” she says. The rape had a huge, lasting impact on Taylor’s career and mental health and although she was too traumatised to report it, she always felt that one day, eventually, the truth would come out about Morillo. “One side of me always knew it was coming and hoped it would happen in my lifetime,” she says.
One of Taylor’s girlfriends, Anoush*, remembers being told about the rape. “I knew what happened and I knew the effect it had on Taylor, it had a terribly negative effect on her, she started to lose all her confidence,” Anoush says. Anoush confronted Morillo in a club one night a few years later.
“Erick was there and he started to ask me, ‘Why do you have a problem with me, all your friends are okay with me,’ and I said, ‘I know what you've done to Taylor and I cannot forgive you.’ And he said, ‘What, do you hate me? and I said, ‘I don’t hate you but I will never forgive you for what you've done.’ And he said, ‘So what are you going to do, are you going to destroy me?’ And I said. ‘No, that's not the kind of person I am, I don't need to destroy you.’ I said, ‘All I need to do is to just sit here and wait for the karmic boomerang to hit you in the face, at some point it's going to happen.’ I said, ‘Whatever you give out in life, you’re going to get back tenfold,’ and he totally freaked out as if I’d just put a spell on him. And he kept following me around and telling me to take it back and I was like, ‘No, this is it. There's nothing I have to do, you're gonna get whatever you've given out.’ He never denied anything. He knew that I knew.”
Katia*, then 23, was working as a dancer in a club in the US where Morillo had DJed. She and a close male friend went back to the house where Morillo was staying after the gig. Morillo was “very creepy”, says Katia. “He made inappropriate comments to me and made me feel uncomfortable but he didn't push it far enough where I didn't feel comfortable going there a second time.” She and her male friend returned to the house to hang out one night around a week later. She recalls Morillo cooking ketamine in the oven in the kitchen. “I mean, I had been going out since I'm like, 13, years old and I've just never seen that amount of ketamine,” she said. “It was really crazy, and I've seen some crazy shit.”
In the early hours of the morning, her male friend fell asleep in the sun outside and Katia went inside to grab her things and head home. Morillo came up behind her and pushed her down onto the couch. “He like, pinned my arms down and straddled me the way a girl would straddle a guy at a strip club. It was so weird, he's a grown man, he pinned my arms down, he was trying to undress me. I was saying no and he's like, ‘Come take a shower with me. Let's go upstairs in my shower,’ and he kept saying that over and over and I said, ‘No, I don't want to.’ And he said, ‘What the fuck is your problem? You don't don't want to fuck me? Why are you here?’ And I said, ‘I thought we were hanging out as like, friends?’ I was so confused. It's not like I had flirted with him or anything. And he said, ‘Who the fuck do you think you are? EVERYONE wants to fuck me.’ I'll never forget it. At that point I was scared. And he kept trying to kiss me but because I was turning my head, he was licking my whole face.”
Katia eventually summoned some “superhuman strength”, kicked Morillo in the balls and sent him flying. “He got super, super angry,” she says. “And basically was like, ‘Get out, what the fuck are you doing here? Who the fuck are you?’” She grabbed her purse, ran out the door and drove away in her car, fearing for her life. She stopped at a restaurant nearby her house. “I hadn't eaten in so long and I just pulled up and went inside and I was shaking, I just remember sitting there for like two hours, I'd never been so scared and I was hysterically crying.” Katia confided in a girlfriend about the assault at the time, who confirmed this account to Mixmag. Around seven years later, Katia’s then-boyfriend, an aspiring DJ, convinced Katia to go to a dinner with him, knowing that Morillo would be there. Katia had told him about Morillo assaulting her and says that her ex never took the story seriously. Katia protested against going to the dinner but eventually relented. At the restaurant, Morillo asked to see Katia’s breasts in front of her ex and commented on her “perfect breasts”. Her ex said, “Ok. We’re leaving. Let’s go.” “I said, ‘I fucking told you, he is sick, he is a sick person,’” Katia says.
Hannah*, who works in the industry, reported that a close friend spent a summer working with Morillo. “It was a horrific experience dealing with him, his addictions, his perviness. He abused her verbally — screaming, raging, being offensive in front of colleagues, etc,” wrote Hannah in an email. “To my knowledge, he didn't physically assault her, but she witnessed many things she was not at all comfortable with. She quit the job early, returned home, and quit the music industry.” Hannah also knew of another young woman who dated Morillo around the same time. She has asked Mixmag to withhold all the upsetting details. It was a catalogue of both emotional and physical abuse, to the point where the victim was admitted to the emergency room after a particularly horrific incident. Both victims mentioned in this account declined to speak personally with Mixmag about their experiences with Morillo.
Rosie* was on the terrace at Cafe Mambo Ibiza when she noticed a friend of a friend standing nearby who looked upset. The young woman told Rosie that she was in Ibiza on holidays, visiting a friend who lived there. Rosie asked her if she wanted to talk. They stepped aside and the girl revealed that Erick Morillo had assaulted her at his villa earlier that morning. “She was just shaking, she said, ‘I don't know what happened to me. I woke up, naked and he was there and I don't know what I've done but I think I feel strange down there.’ She had no memory whatsoever so it must have been like GHB or he drugged her or something, she felt like shit,” Rosie says. “But she definitely hadn’t gotten there with the intention of sleeping with him.” Rosie says she understands why the woman didn’t want to report the rape. “She said, ‘What do I say? I can't really remember anything. All I can tell them is I've woken up naked, and he's next to me naked. I can't prove anything, no one will believe me.’ The conversation wasn't that long because she was SO stressed out,” Rosie says. “And we were quite young, maybe early 20s.”
“At the time I'm thinking, oh God, you know, I’ll take her down to the Guardia Civil [Spanish police] and translate, because I speak Spanish, but I couldn't obviously force her and I know...I've been through something like that myself.”
Rosie says that the girl’s account of her experience was “very, very similar” to that of the woman who laid rape charges against Morillo last December. “It was almost identical,” she says.
Don* was in Morillo’s professional orbit for “the best part of 20 years”, he says. They first met in the early ‘90s. “He was aggressive, brash, demanding,” recalls Don. These are not uncommon traits among superstar DJs, but Don found Morillo particularly unpleasant. “There was something about him that I just didn’t really like,” he says. Don says he knows of at least three women who were assaulted by Morillo in the ‘90s in New York, in various professional situations. In one incident, Morillo sexually assaulted a female colleague in a car. Don believes it was an attempted rape, but the victim was too upset to provide further details and never wanted to talk about it again. Don suspects that Morillo sexually harassed another colleague, or perhaps worse. “He would come into this woman's office,” he says. “We don't really know what happened, but she would freak out if you closed the door.” In the case of the third woman, Morillo “got into her personal space,” but she “pretty much told him to back the fuck off.” Morillo did not bother her again, Don says.
According to Don, Morillo was a “bully”. “I witnessed on more than one occasion just his general treatment of people he worked for. They were all functionaries who were there to satisfy him. I don't think he viewed them as people,” Don says. “I’ve long thought he was a very dark and disturbed person, a very angry person. There was a lot of anger that lay close to the surface.”
1994: Dave Lambert
Dave Lambert signed the Reel 2 Real track 'I Like To Move It' to Positiva/EMI in the UK in 1993 and worked with Morillo as his A&R from 1993 until around 1997, when Morillo set up Subliminal Records. Erick and Reel 2 Real used to visit the UK regularly for TV appearances and promotion and to perform at the likes of Ministry of Sound on the weekends and when in London, Morillo would also visit the EMI office in Manchester Square to see the team. Reception would inform Lambert that Morillo was there to see him and Lambert would tell the front desk to buzz him up, but Morillo wouldn’t show. Lambert would go looking for Morillo and would invariably find him on some other floor of the building, chatting to a girl, usually a PA or receptionist. “I sort of picked up by then, as they say, he had an eye for the ladies, which didn’t feel unusual at first but it became a regular occurrence,” says Lambert. "It did get to the point where I was asked by the security in my building, 'Whenever you’re notified Erick's here, you need to send someone to reception to get him for whatever meeting he's coming for, because he's kind of disappearing into the building.'"
Lambert also knows another rape victim who spoke with Mixmag. He can confirm that she told him that Morillo was abusive towards her. “I do remember being at a club, Reel 2 Real were going to play a set. He sort of arrives with a face like thunder, she comes in in tears behind him, tells me that he's a bastard.” Lambert says. “I feel bad, when I get back to it I, why didn't I take him aside and point out that's not what you should be doing? I've got to deal with that myself.” By this point Reel 2 Real were international superstars and their hit single “I Like to Move It” had topped the charts in several countries. When Morillo was charged with rape in August, this friend told Lambert that Morillo had raped her, too.
1994: Litsa Aris
Litsa Aris was 30 years old and working as part of a TV crew in Europe who were filming Erick Morillo performing with Mark Quashie “The Mad Stuntman” as Reel 2 Real, along with a couple of dancers. After the gig, the TV crew and the band headed to a nightclub. Morillo made a “low level pass” at Aris in an area adjacent to the dance floor, but Quashie good-naturedly deflected the situation. As Aris was leaving the club with her colleagues later, she trailed behind them, perhaps to go to the bathroom, she thinks. Morillo came up behind her in the foyer as she was on her way out of the club and “body slammed” her into the ticket desk. “He used his full body weight to pinion me against the desk and had his tongue down my throat and hands all over me before I knew wtf was going on,” she wrote in a message. “I was trying to get him off but initially failing. Somehow I managed to get my head back enough so his tongue wasn’t in my mouth and I could call/shout/squeal for help. Whether the security heard or saw, I don’t know but suddenly they [two security guards] and my two colleagues were there pulling him off [me] with them all shouting at him.” It took all four men to restrain Morillo. “The look in his eyes alone was fucking freaky and scared me. And he was definitely using his physical strength to force the situation despite my clear resistance,” Aris wrote.
Aris was reluctant to report the incident at the time. She was “too mortified to share full details with friends and family,” she wrote. "It was only when I was back at work the next day and told my colleague about this real creep called Erick that she informed me that afterwards he’d hit on another colleague, gone back to the hotel where we were staying and lain outside her hotel room banging on the door all night saying she was the most beautiful woman ever, blah, blah. As she had laughed the whole business off I felt like I couldn’t make any more fuss. He was number one at the time. A new big cheese on the dance scene. TV was nothing without good relationships with talent. Competent producers were ten a penny. He hadn’t done enough to me to warrant police involvement and I felt I just had to put it behind me.”
2000: Anna Chapman
Anna Chapman was working as a journalist in Ibiza when she had a similar experience. She was at a club night’s after party at a villa; people were jumping in and out of the pool and having a great time. Morillo tried to grope her in the pool and was “really sulky that I wasn’t accepting his advances,” she says. She went to the bathroom downstairs at one point and when she came out Morillo was blocking the hallway. “He had this really horrible look on his face and he was laughing and I was kind of trapped by him and it was just me — there was no one else around, they were all outside having fun. And it was just really sinister and horrible,” she says.
“I was like, fuck, and I just kind of pushed past him and ran upstairs..I was just really kind of traumatized by it, in a way that it just...it just shook me up. It just made me feel really vulnerable.”
She barely spoke to anyone about it because she felt embarrassed, although her then-housemate recalls Chapman telling her about the incident at the time. Chapman wondered if Morillo had expected her to submit to his advances because she’d come back to the villa. When she heard about his recent death and his rape charges, it gave Chapman the chills. “It just confirmed that horrible thought that it could have happened to me,” she says.
1998: DJ Empress
D’n’b DJ and producer DJ Empress shared her story on Facebook about how Morillo repeatedly harassed her over a period of around 18 months when she was working at Satellite Records in New York. “He would come up behind me and rub his dick all over my legs and butt when I was facing the wall putting away records while breathing his hot, wet breath into my ears and whisper perverted sexual things he wanted to do to me,” Empress wrote in her post. She was only 17 at the time.
“He [Erick] used to come in at least once a month for records,” Empress told Mixmag. “And, you know, I remember having this feeling from him where if you made him mad it's like all hell breaks loose. He was like, this tiny little Titan, he had this really scary energy to him where he was like, super, super happy but then if you made him angry like you could feel that switch really quickly.”
Empress recalls being at a party years later at a then-popular NYC nightspot. She was backstage in the VIP section and someone who used to work very closely with Morillo was telling a story about an incident at Morillo's villa in Ibiza where he threw a wad of $100 bills into the pool. “There were all these women that he had picked up from whatever club he had DJed at. And he said to them, if any of you want this money, you have to get naked and jump in the pool to collect the money and so all the girls that were there, they took off all their clothes and jumped in the water and they were like, grabbing hundreds of dollars,” says Empress. “And I was like, well, that makes sense.”
*names have been changed
Annabel Ross is a freelance journalist and contributor to Mixmag. Follow her on Twitter
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