A former Disney Channel star is taking action after he says he suffered years of abuse.
Ricky Garcia, of Disney’s “Best Friends Whenever,” has filed a complaint against talent manager Joby Harte of Hot Rock Media, alleging Harte raped him throughout his adolescence.
In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles and obtained by USA TODAY, Garcia’s attorneys allege years of sexual abuse by Harte, beginning when Garcia was 12. The lawsuit names Harte, four entertainment companies and four other individuals.
USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for Harte for comment.
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.”
Garcia encouraged people with sexual assault experiences to come forward with their stories.
“YOU are not alone,” he wrote on Instagram. “This can 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.”
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 attorneys allege Harte not only raped and sexually assaulted him “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 career took off when he auditioned for Fox’s talent competition show “The X Factor” at 14. Though eliminated in the boot camp round, judge Simon Cowell noticed Garcia’s talent and connected him with two other musicians to form 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.”
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