Ricky Garcia, an actor and singer in the boy band Forever In Your Mind, has filed a lawsuit accusing his former manager of repeatedly raping him and claiming that others in the industry supported the behavior and joined in on the sexual abuse.
Garcia, now 20, filed a complaint Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior court alleging that Joby Harte sexually assaulted him dozens of times, beginning when he was 12 years old, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Garcia has claimed that Harte used him as a “sexual plaything” and “passed [him] around” to other music executives, who also sexually abused him, the outlet reports.
Garcia, who appeared on “The X Factor” in 2013 and later formed FIYM, is also a Disney Channel alum, having appeared in multiple episodes of the series “Best Friends Whenever.” But Garcia’s career was derailed thanks to the abuse of Harte and other powerful individuals, the suit alleges.
“Defendant Harte, the ringleader, employed the well-worn pedophile playbook of grooming and seduction,” the suit reads, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “He targeted an economically and emotionally vulnerable pre-teen and his parents. He then groomed and seduced the child's mother to have her lay down her defenses and give him unfettered access to her son, making her an unwitting accomplice to his depravity.”
Garcia claimed in his suit that Harte had begun sexually abusing nearly weekly by the time he was 16 years old, PEOPLE reports. He described waking up without any clothes on after Harte would give him alcohol and show him pornography the night before, the outlet reports, and on one occasion, on his 17th birthday, Harte allegedly got into a hotel shower with Garcia and made him stroke his penis.
Garcia said that he was too afraid to tell anyone about the abuse until March 2018, when he told someone who used to work for Harte as an assistant, and that person then relayed the information to his mother, according to PEOPLE. However, when confronted about the abuse claims, Harte allegedly said it was only “horseplay.”
Garcia’s suit also accuses two other individuals of sexual misconduct: Tyler Grasham, a former agent with talent agency APA, allegedly made sexual, inappropriate comments to Garcia and licked his toes, while Nils Larsen, a manager and producer, has been accused of groping Garcia’s penis through his pants during a 2016 concert, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In addition to Grasham, Larsen, and Harte, Harte’s company, Rock Media, is also named in the suit, as is APA, Cohen/Thomas Management, and Sheri Andersen Thomas and Paul Cohen, who own the company.
Grasham’s relationship with APA was terminated in 2017 in response to accusations of sexual misconduct unrelated to Garcia, according to another THR report. Grasham has not yet responded to a request for comment from the outlet, which reached out to all the defendants in the case, but Larsen denied the allegations via his legal representation.
“My client Nils Larsen categorically disputes the claim,” lawyer Marty Singer said. “He intends to sue the attorneys for malicious prosecution after he prevails in this action.”
After filing the suit, Garcia took to Instagram on Wednesday to explain why he's telling his story, writing that his decision to come forward “is about saving anyone else who feels like they don't have a voice, because I can tell you this. YOU are not alone.”
“Today was one of the most difficult days of my life,” reads a graphic posted to his page. “It was through the support of my family, friends, all my supporters, and most of all God that I summoned the courage to speak out against the executives who sexually abused me as a child. Sadly, I know my experience is just one of many and I hope my actions today will help others who experienced abuse to know that they are not alone and that there are people in this world fighting for them.”
Garcia’s suit asks for punitive and compensatory damages, according to NBC News.
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