A former Disney Channel star and current boy band member alleges in a new lawsuit that his former manager and several other industry executives repeatedly raped him throughout his adolescence, reports USA Today.
Ricky Garcia, who has appeared in over 30 episodes on Disney Channel’s “Best Friends Whenever,” filed a complaint in Los Angeles against talent manager Joby Harte of Hot Rock Media.
Garcia’s attorneys allege Harte not only raped and sexually assaulted the actor “dozens of times throughout his teenage years” but also “groomed” him into a “personal sexual play thing that could be passed around” among Harte’s colleagues.
Garcia’s attorneys allege the sexual abuse began when Garcia was 12. The lawsuit names Harte, four entertainment companies and four other individuals.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
The suit says Harte initially began having conversations with Garcia about sexuality and later intoxicated Garcia before stripping him naked and sexually assaulting him. By the time Garcia was 16, his lawsuit claims, Harte sexually assaulted him “on an almost weekly basis.”
In one incident outlined in the lawsuit, Harte arranged for a two-night songwriting retreat for himself and Garcia’s boy band Forever in Your Mind on Catalina Island. Parents were not allowed to attend.
During this trip, Garcia’s attorneys say Harte sexually assaulted Garcia while he was drunk.
Garcia’s music career took off when he auditioned for Fox’s talent competition show “The X Factor” at 14. He later joined the boy band, Forever in Your Mind.
At the 2017 Teen Choice awards, Garcia was nominated alongside Zac Efron and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for choice comedy movie actor for his work in the film “Bigger Fatter Liar.”
Garcia encouraged all those with sexual assault experiences to come forward with their stories.
”YOU are not alone,” he wrote on Instagram. “This can happen to anyone that you know. It’s just a matter of talking about this to people and letting your close ones know that it’s not okay.”
Garcia’s attorneys Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok condemned Harte in a joint statement to USA TODAY.
“Our client, Ricky Garcia, was a preteen and teen music and acting star in the making,” they wrote in the statement, provided by Popok. ”Tragically, and as alleged by him under oath in the complaint, high-powered male entertainment industry executives, led by his former manager Joby Harte, who were responsible for nurturing his career, instead sexually preyed on his economic and emotional vulnerability, and sexually assaulted and raped him. In twisted fashion they inflicted injuries and shame on our client that have derailed his promising career and that will take him a lifetime to recover from.”
They added: “Mr Garcia has bravely stepped forward to join the #MeToo movement, to reclaim his dignity and declare that victims like him must be heard.”