Rehage Steps Down

Stephen Rehage has stepped aside as producer of the 2011 Essence Music Festival to focus on allegations against him, says Essence Communications.

Rehage, who is also founder and producer of the Voodoo Fest, is free on $10,000 bond after being booked Nov. 5 on one count of simple rape. He is accused of choking and raping a woman during a date in June.

“Based on recent allegations, Stephen Rehage is voluntarily stepping down from his role as producer of the 2011 Essence Music Festival to focus on these allegations,”‘ Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks said in a statement released Friday evening. “Essence will announce further adjustments to our production plans in the coming week.'”

The statement from Essence referred only to his personal role in the nation’s largest urban contemporary music festival, The Times-Picayune reported Saturday.

Company spokeswoman Dana Baxter told the newspaper she didn’t know anything else _ including whether Rehage Entertainment Inc. will still produce Essence Fest.

Ebanks did not immediately reply to an e-mail and phone call Saturday from The Associated Press.

On Saturday, Rehage Entertainment’s home page featured the festival.

Defense attorney Pat Fanning has said Rehage is innocent _ and that this is backed up by an exchange of text messages with his accuser three days after the alleged incident.

According to a police report, Rehage’s accuser said she met him for drinks at a New Orleans restaurant on June 21, then went to a party at a different restaurant, where she continued drinking cocktails. The woman said she apparently blacked out during the party.

“Her next recollection was being awakened in a bed naked and disoriented,” with Rehage on top of her, choking her, the police report says.

The woman said Rehage let go of her neck after she gasped for air and whispered for him to stop, but she told police she blacked out again. When she awoke, she called several friends and relatives for help.

Police were summoned to Rehage’s residence and took her home, but the woman didn’t immediately report the alleged assault, according to the police report. Police started investigating on July 26, when a detective interviewed her at a hospital.

Fanning said Rehage and his accuser had consensual sex. The woman had a boyfriend who called police after she told him about the encounter, Fanning said.