A Nashville PR agency for many country music artists will remain open under a different name after an accusation that the firm’s owner sexually assaulted a man.
Earlier Wednesday, a message on the website of publicist Kirt Webster said that as of Nov. 1, 2017, Webster Public Relations is no longer in business. The firm later clarified in a statement that the firm will continue operating under the name Westby Public Relations.Earlier today, it was mistakenly posted on the Webster Public Relations’ website that the firm has been closed. This was stated incorrectly. Webster Public Relations will continue operating - but under the name Westby Public Relations - while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him. The company's work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt's longstanding colleague.Jeremy Westby, the No. 2 person at Webster PR, is listed as a contact for clients on Webster Public Relations' website. The website is back up, but some famous names are now missing from its list of clients, including Cyndi Lauper, Kiefer Sutherland and Randy Travis.
In a Facebook post last Friday, a man has accused Webster of sexually assaulting him in 2008. In a statement to News 4 on Tuesday, 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.
Webster has not been charged with a crime, and one legal analyst said it's unlikely he could face charges stemming from Rick's allegations.
"The question is what can the law do about this after so many years?" said defense attorney David Raybin.
Raybin is not representing anyone in this matter, but he did review the accusations made by Rick during a News 4 interview.
At worst, some of the accusations could fall under the legal definition of rape, according to Raybin.
But the attorney clarified that even if the allegations are true, the statute for limitations for rape in Tennessee is eight years. Lesser offenses that may have occurred follow an even shorter statute of limitations. Rick alleged these incidents occurred nine years ago in 2008. Rick was also an adult at the time of the alleged events.
Raybin argued the statute of limitations exists to protect both parties and oftentimes, evidence and witnesses become stale after a certain time period.
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 was 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.
He was a director-at-large for the Academy of Country Music, a 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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