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Former model claims in lawsuit she was raped as a teenager by agency executive

Carré Sutton was a 16-year-old runaway in 1985 when a modeling scout discovered her in Northern California.

It wouldn’t be much longer before Sutton, who then went by Carré Otis, arrived in New York City after catching the eye of Elite Model Management co-founder John Casablancas. The girl who had been homeless months earlier was about to embark on a career under the care of the prestigious modeling agency.

She was a child when powerful adults she depended on at Elite preyed upon her sexually or turned a blind eye to the abuse, according to a lawsuit Sutton filed Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

New York’s Child Victim’s Act passed in 2019 gives Sutton, now 52 and a resident of Boulder, Colorado, an avenue to pursue legal recourse against defendants Gérald Marie, the head of Elite’s European division, and Trudi Tapscott, a company executive who oversaw models in New York. The law allows civil complaints to be filed in cases of alleged sexual abuse of children, up until the age of 55 for accusers.

“There are few cases in our nation’s history that have tackled such widely accepted sexual abuse and trafficking of young girls as this one,” said Sutton’s lawyer, John Clune. “Carré is a champion and survivor who stands for the countless other women and child models whose cases don’t fit into the narrow parameters of the Child Survivor’s Act.

“We look forward to exposing the predatory history of the modeling industry and holding accountable all of those who contributed to the abuse of some of its most vulnerable young girls and children.”

Tapscott and a lawyer who has represented Marie in the past could not be reached for comment Friday. Representatives for Elite also could not be reached.

Marie told The New York Times last year in a story about four women accusing Marie of rape or sexual assault that he “categorically” denied the allegations and said it would be inappropriate to comment further. Sutton was among the four women.

The Guardian reported that Marie’s attorneys previously responded to allegations, saying he was “extremely affected by the accusations made against him, which he contests with the utmost firmness … He intends to actively participate in the manifestation of the truth within the scope of the opened criminal investigation.”

Sutton’s lawsuit claims fraud, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

She alleges in the lawsuit that Tapscott, who was “in effect a house mother” to young models, approved a plan to send 17-year-old Sutton to live at the Paris home of Marie, a known sexual predator of underage models.

Sutton had spent a few unsuccessful months in New York City when she was sent to Paris to live with Marie with the understanding that it would be beneficial to her career, the lawsuit said.

Instead of her career blossoming, the document stated, Marie repeatedly raped Sutton, trafficked her for sex with other powerful men and supplied her with vials of cocaine.

“Plaintiff moved into Marie’s apartment under the false pretense that he was interested enough in her career success that she could live in his personal residence. … In Marie’s apartment, she was raped repeatedly by Marie and later trafficked by Marie to other wealthy men around Europe. Plaintiff was never paid for her modeling work,” the lawsuit said.

The court document also said that when Sutton first met Marie, he told her she would see success if she obeyed him. But Sutton began rejecting Marie’s sexual advances when she turned 18, the lawsuit said. Marie told her no one tells him, “No.”

“She was kicked out of his apartment shortly after,” the filing said.

The lawsuit said Marie, now 71, has “been accused of raping at least 15 models under his supervision” and is under criminal investigation in Paris. It also alleges Tapscott failed to disclose to Sutton she “was sending her to live at the home of a sex offender.”

Casablancas greenlit the plan to send Sutton to Paris, the lawsuit said. Casablancas died in 2013.

Casablancas and Marie were known to compete over having sex with young models, the lawsuit said, and the culture of sexually assaulting models who were underage was pervasive in the agency.

“Thus, the very adults responsible for taking care of these child models, were competing amongst themselves to see who could rape the most of them,” the lawsuit said. “The predatory competitive environment among Elite officials in sexually abusing children only encouraged and expanded predatory behavior within the industry.”

Sutton went on to have a successful modeling career under different management, landing magazine covers and becoming a marketable face for fashion designers, the lawsuit said. She also appeared in movies.

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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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House passes John Lewis voting rights bill, sends measure to Senate for tougher fight

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a sweeping voting rights bill named after Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was approved 219-212. All Republicans voted against the legislation.

The bill is part of congressional Democrats’ broader campaign to strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states, such as Texas and Georgia. However, it faces steep opposition in the Senate, where Democrats hold a wafer-thin majority.

The House returned from its recess this week to take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a resolution for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, which includes funding for much of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The procedural motion used to pass the multitrillion-dollar resolution paved the way for the House to vote on the voting rights bill, which was re-introduced last week by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The legislation would require states with recent histories of discrimination to get federal “preclearance” to change their voting laws, which directly addresses the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling gutted the preclearance system in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which civil rights advocates argue was successful in blocking proposed voting restrictions in states and localities with histories of racial discrimination.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement last week that Congress had “not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility” to pass the bill.

Shortly before its passage, Pelosi said on the House floor that the bill would honor Lewis’ legacy.

“We should have the right to vote and shouldn’t be diminished by anyone. It is unpatriotic to undermine the ability of people who have a right to vote, who have access to the polls,” she said. “As John knew, this precious pillar of our democracy is under attack from one of the worst voter suppression campaigns since Jim Crow.”

It isn’t the first time House Democrats have tackled election law. In March, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that seeks to change campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

The bill would expand access to the ballot box by creating automatic voter registration across the country by registering eligible voters whenever they interact with government agencies, restoring the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, expanding early voting and modernizing the country’s voting systems.

However, Senate Republicans filibustered the voting rights legislation in June, and the vote to advance an amended version of the For the People Act split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 votes needed. All Democratic-aligned senators voted to begin debate, and Republicans unanimously voted to block the bill.

Passage of the voting measure was the final vote of the week for the House, whose members are leaving Washington and won’t return until Sept. 20.

Haley Talbot contributed.

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