Magician David Copperfield accused of sexual misconduct by 16 women

An investigation by the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ reveals that the alleged events occurred between the late 1980s and 2014. Copperfield denies the accusations

David Copperfield
David Copperfield, in October 2019 in New York.Gary Gershoff (Getty Images)
María Porcel

The famous magician David Copperfield, 67, whose global popularity reached a peak in the 1990s and who brought the most modern magic techniques to large audiences, has been accused of sexual misconduct by 16 women, according to an investigation carried out by the newspaper The Guardian and published on Wednesday. The American edition of the British outlet reports that the attacks cover a long period of time: from the late 1980s to 2014. When they allegedly took place, more than half of the girls were aged under 18; some said they were as young as 15. Three of them accuse him of having drugged them to have sexual relations, so that they could not give their consent. He denies all the allegations.

Some of the women agreed to have their names made public and allowed themselves to be photographed, while others preferred to remain anonymous. To carry out the investigation, the newspaper conducted more than 100 interviews and pored over court and police records. One of the women who has decided to come forward is former model Brittney Lewis, who claims that Copperfield drugged and assaulted her in 1988, when she was 17 years old. She had already made this claim public in 2018, and now she continues to maintain it. Several other women have added their own testimony, affirming that the pattern was very similar with them and that, either alone and with friends, they were drugged and sexually assaulted by the magician. A victim who uses the alias Gillian claims that she met Copperfield in 1993 and that the same thing happened to her: “I … would never just say this to somebody if I didn’t truly, honest to God believe that I was drugged at that time.”

Several women explained how they were abused, showing a pattern: they say that, when they were very young, they wanted to build a career for themselves in the entertainment industry or to be models, and that he said he could help them. A woman who calls herself Carla (now in her forties) says that she first saw the magician at one of his shows in 1991, when she was 15 years old, and that she now feels that she had been “groomed”: he started sending her gifts and tickets to his shows, and called her at home so often and so late at night that her mother had to talk to him about it.

When she was 16, Copperfield sent her balloons for Valentine’s Day, with a note that read: “I’ll be back in two years.” When she turned 18, the young woman decided to have consensual sex with him (he was 20 years older than her). It was her first time: There was a huge financial and power imbalance, she now acknowledges, stating that “he took advantage of his position.” The lawyers representing the magician claim that he indeed met the girl when she was just a teenager and that they maintained a relationship for four years, but deny “any suggestion of grooming or any other impropriety.”

Model Claudia Schiffer and magician David Copperfield, who were a couple between 1994 and 1999, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, in March 1995.
Model Claudia Schiffer and magician David Copperfield, who were a couple between 1994 and 1999, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, in March 1995.WWD (Getty Images)

Four of the women (three of them then in their teens) accuse Copperfield of groping them when he took them on stage during his shows. Even a relative of one of the girls, who was then 15 years old, recalls having seen from the audience how he groped her breast on stage. One of these women, Fallon Thornton, now 38 years old, said that in 2014 Copperfield took her up on the stage of the MGM Grand casino-hotel in Las Vegas, where he was doing a show, and squeezed her breast and how she was in shock. She then went to the city police to file a complaint, but says that no one took it seriously and soon afterward the case was closed for lack of evidence. Copperfield’s lawyers deny the claim and say that video footage of that night does not show this gesture. The Guardian has been unable to access the videos and the casino — where the magician has performed regularly since 2000 — has refused to comment.

In addition, as many as six people who worked with the magician between the early 1990s and the mid-2000s claim that he often asked his assistants to bring attractive young women up on stage. Sometimes he would indicate exactly which woman in the audience he wanted to bring up; sometimes he would get angry with his assistants if the young woman was there with a partner, and told them to make sure the girl was alone. Then, according to the claim, he would invite them to ride with him in his limousine or go to his hotel. This was something that happened often, every week. “There were always women coming and going,” recounts a former assistant identified as Valerie who, fed up with the dynamic, decided to break her contract despite losing part of her salary. “I never saw anyone approach him who didn’t want to, but I felt that whole power dynamic was wrong. They were very young girls.” Another assistant, Sophie, who worked with him in the 2000s, also noticed what was going on and started asking the girls their age, selecting only those who were over 18.

Copperfield’s name showed up in the famous declassified court documents involving Jeffrey Epstein, the indicted child sex trafficker who killed himself in prison in 2019. One of the victims, Johanna Sjoberg, recounted in her May 2016 statement that she saw the magician at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion. Copperfield did some magic tricks for her and asked her if she was aware that “girls are paid to find other girls.” The illusionist announced in 2023 that he had started working with the non-profit Save The Children and that they would do a big act to make the Moon disappear in February 2024. It never happened. The non-profit severed ties with him in January, the day after news emerged about his name in Epstein’s list.

David Copperfield and Ben Vereen in "The Magic of David Copperfield: China," broadcast on CBS March 14, 1986.
David Copperfield and Ben Vereen in "The Magic of David Copperfield: China," broadcast on CBS March 14, 1986. CBS Photo Archive (CBS via Getty Images)

The women said that it was not until the #MeToo movement emerged in October 2017 — when after the arrest of producer Harvey Weinstein for sexual violence, the actress Alyssa Milano raised her voice and invited all women who had suffered to tell their story — when some of them realized they could now talk about what happened to them with a man of Copperfield’s fame, power and fortune (according to a Forbes article from five years ago he was the highest-paid magician in the world, with a net worth of $875 million).

The magician’s lawyers have stated that their client has “never acted inappropriately with anyone, let alone anyone underage,” and have assured that a truthful description of Copperfield would describe his “kindness, shyness and treatment of men and women with respect.” They say that he is a defender of the #MeToo movement and that he found out about Epstein’s crimes “like the rest of the world, through the press.”

This type of allegation is not new. In 2007, a 21-year-old woman from Seattle accused Copperfield of taking her to his home in the Bahamas and, for two days, beating and abusing her. According to her complaint, he threatened to kill her if she tried to flee, and allowed her to return home 48 hours later. He then canceled his tour of Southeast Asia.

David Seth Kotkin, better known as David Copperfield, is one of the most celebrated magicians in the world. He was already a ventriloquist at the age of eight, and became the youngest person ever to become a member of the Society of American Magicians. One of his most famous tricks was to make the Statue of Liberty disappear in New York. His five-year relationship with German supermodel Claudia Schiffer in the mid-1990s, when they were both at the peak of their fame, further enhanced his global popularity.

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