Man accuses Nashville publicist of sexual assault; publicist den - WSMV News 4

Man accuses Nashville publicist of sexual assault; publicist denies allegations

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Kirt Webster (Source: websterpr.com) Kirt Webster (Source: websterpr.com)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

In a Facebook post, a man has accused Nashville publicist Kirt Webster of sexually assaulting him in 2008. In a statement to News 4, Webster denies the allegations.

Austin Rick claimed he was drugged and sexually assaulted. Rick said Webster offered him publicity opportunities and magazine coverage in exchange for the sexual acts.

Rick claims Webster paid him to stay quiet and threatened he would make it so nobody in the country music industry ever heard his name again.

At the time, Rick was an aspiring country music artist who opened for big names and once performed at the Grand Ole Opry.

Rick, whose stage name was Austin Cody, said it started with Webster asking him to watch pornography.

“There would be hardcore pornography on the TV, and he’d say, ‘Come over and sit on my lap and watch this with me. Isn’t this hot?’” Rick said.

Rick claimed things got progressively worse over the course of a year. He said Webster often invited him and others into his hot tub.

“Kirt is reaching under my bathing suit leg to my genitals and massaging my genitals all while smiling at me and winking at me like it’s a romantic connection in his head,” Rick said.

Rick said the final incident was the worst. He claimed he blacked out at a holiday party after just one drink. Rick said he remembers waking up in Webster’s bed to Webster kissing his lips and neck.

“It was like a fantasy he was living out at my expense,” Rick said.

Rick said Webster has tried to keep contacting him. He shared what he said are text messages from an exchange last summer where Rick told Webster he ruined part of his life. Webster apparently responded, “Sorry you feel that way.”

Last Friday, Rick posted the following on Facebook:

My name is Austin, and I know that men don't talk about these things as often, but I have been victimized by a very powerful businessman over the period of a year. I didn't know what to do and how to say no, because he held such power over my music career and overtly reminded me of it.

I recognize that many are dealing with their own unique pain and recovery. I thank and applaud them for being role models and for stepping out to throw their monsters into the light of day. You are all heroes.

The point of my message is, selfishly, in the hope that getting it out of my own head and to you and a few industry folks finally, will help me reach some kind of relief/peace of mind in knowing that people know the truth about what was really happening.

So, here goes.

In 2008, Kirt Webster, the CEO of the powerful “Webster Public Relations” did terrible, terrible things to me. He sexually assaulted me repeatedly, he drugged and sexually violated me, he offered me publicity opportunities and magazine columns in exchange for sexual acts. He paid me to keep my mouth shut. And he did everything under threat that he’d make sure nobody in the industry ever heard my name again. It took me a year to escape from him and get away to where he couldn’t find me or reach me any longer — although he still continued to harass me via phone and text messages.

I know this is perhaps an awkward statement for you to read because I don’t feel like a whole human being when I remember some of the explicit events. But, I just need people to truly know what actually happened to me down there, during that time. Thank you.

In a statement released Tuesday, Webster said the relationship was consensual:

As a single adult, Mr. Webster has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual. This includes a brief relationship with Mr. Rick. It saddens Mr. Webster that nine years later, after Mr. Rick’s music career has been stagnant, Mr. Rick has taken the opportunistic approach of mischaracterizing that relationship and posting untrue allegations.

Rick has created a GoFundMe account seeking $15,000 for legal fees, saying he will likely find himself in a civil court battle.

News 4 has spoken to other individuals who claim Webster showed similar behavior toward them while they worked for Webster.

A former employee told News 4 he believes he was drugged by Webster. He said he blacked out after having one drink with Webster at CMA Fest in 2010, and had no choice but to stay over at his house.

Webster has worked in public relations for over 30 years and opened his Nashville-based firm, Webster Public Relations, in January 1996.

Webster's enterprise is considered one of the most prestigious public relations firms in the entertainment industry.

His firm represents many country and pop stars including Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Cyndi Lauper and Brenda Lee.

According to his website, he was a director-at-large for the Academy of Country Music, a former board member of the T.J. Martell Foundation, and a member of the Country Music Association and the International Entertainment Buyer's Association.

He has received multiple awards for his work in the entertainment industry and was included in Nashville Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2009.

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