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Singer Rick James, Girlfriend Arrested on Charges of Torturing Woman : Crime: The couple allegedly burned the victim with a crack cocaine pipe and sexually abused her.

August 03, 1991|AARON CURTISS and JACK CHEEVERS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Singer Rick James, the Grammy-winning "King of Funk" of the 1980s, was arrested with his 21-year-old girlfriend Friday for allegedly imprisoning and torturing a 24-year-old woman with a hot cocaine pipe over three days at James' Hollywood Hills home, police said.

James, 43, who with Prince spearheaded the '80s merger of funk and rock, was held in lieu of $1 million bail at the North Hollywood Division jail after he was arrested Friday morning at home with his girlfriend, Tanya Anne Hijazi. Hijazi was held on $500,000 bail at the women's jail in Van Nuys.

James and Hijazi were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, forced oral copulation, making terrorist threats and furnishing narcotics, police said.

The singer and his girlfriend met the unidentified victim, who apparently was unemployed, at a party and offered to put her up at their house, police said.

On July 16, James threatened the victim with a gun, telling her he would kill her if she tried to leave, and he and Hijazi tied the woman up and severely burned her about 20 times with the hot end of a crack cocaine pipe, officers said.

That night and early July 17, James forced the victim to orally copulate Hijazi while he watched, police said. Officers said that throughout the ordeal, James and Hijazi smoked crack cocaine and intermittently forced the victim to smoke it too.

Los Angeles Police Detective Dennis Cicioni said the victim was "just let go" by James and Hijazi on July 18. She went to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where her injuries led hospital workers to notify police. She was released after treatment, officers said.

James, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., is best known for "Super Freak," a taut, sexually charged dance number that broke into the Top 20 in 1981.

The song's distinctive bass line was adopted by rapper M.C. Hammer as the basis last year for the smash "U Can't Touch This" single. James, listed as co-writer on the song, won a Grammy in February when "U Can't Touch This" was named best R & B song of 1990.

James began his music career in the mid-'60s in Toronto, where he and a then-unknown Neil Young formed a rock band called the Mynah Birds. After the group split up, James moved to Detroit and joined Motown as a staff writer-producer.

In 1979, Motown released James' debut album, a collection that featured a song, "You and I," which reached No. 13 on the national pop charts. The album, "Come Get It!," was the first of four gold records--rewarding more than 500,000 sales--that James recorded for Motown. The biggest album, 1981's "Street Songs," sold more than 1 million copies.

In addition to his recordings, James produced hits for such acts as the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie and actor Eddie Murphy. James left Motown in the late '80s to sign with Warner Bros. Records, where his last album, "Wonderful," failed to restore him as a potent chart force.

A spokesman for Warner Bros. said James' last album was released two years ago and his contract with the record company was dropped this summer.

James and Hijazi could not be reached for comment.

Neighbors said the couple had lived in their gated home in the 8100 block of Mulholland Terrace, in the Hollywood Hills above Studio City just off Laurel Canyon Boulevard, for less than six months.

Times staff writer Michael Connelly and free-lance writer Steve Hochman contributed to this report.

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