Special thanks to Diana Mallayeva for contributing to this piece.
In the summer of 2020, American EDM DJ Bassnectar retreated from the public spotlight after becoming the subject of numerous sexual abuse accusations amid a #MeToo resurgence in dance music. He and several of his companies are now being sued by two victims alleging sex trafficking and child pornography in a civil case thus far unique to the electronic music industry.
The lawsuit was filed on April 5th by Brian KentStewart Ryan and MacMaster of Philadelphia practice Laffey, Bucci & Kent as well as Phillip Miller of Miller Law Offices in Nashville. The plaintiffs, Rachel Ramsbottom and Alexis Bowling, allege that Bassnectar (real name Lorin Ashton) groomed and coerced them into having sex with him and sending him explicit photos while they were underage.
Being that Ashton allegedly paid Ramsbottom and Bowling amounts ranging from $300-1,600 to have sex with him, the accusations would constitute human trafficking if found to be true. The complaint also names Amorphous Music, Bassnectar Touring, Redlight Management, C3 Presents, and the Interactive Giving Fund as defendants for having aided and abetted in Ashton’s illegal activities. It argues that they “knew or, in the very least, should have known Bassnectar was trafficking minor girls for commercial sex and other illegal activity.”
“We have seen a true reckoning in recent years of powerful individuals and institutions finally being held to account for years of sexual abuse against adults and minors,” said Kent in a press release. “But we have only begun to scratch the surface of how these influential figures and entities can go on for years committing abuses without being held responsible. This lawsuit is about seeking justice not just against Bassnectar but against the corporations that cooperate in and help facilitate the abuses he is alleged to have committed.”
Both Ramsbottom and Bowling initially accused Ashton of abuse through the Instagram account @EvidenceAgainstBassnectar on which screen shots of dozens of similar allegations were published. The complaint provides additional information surrounding both of their claims, seeking damages from Ashton and the other defendants for medical expenses, emotional distress, court costs, and attorney fees, among other things.
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What are the Allegations?
The lawsuit focuses on two separate series of alleged incidents with common themes. The first is Rachel Ramsbottom’s account of events that transpired in Tennessee from 2012-2013, and the latter is Alexis Bowling’s account of her experiences with Ashton from 2014-2016 in Kentucky, Nevada, and about eight other states. Ashton would have been about 34-38 years old at the times the alleged incidents took place.
The complaint also cites transcripts of text or direct message conversations as well as audio recordings of phone conversations, many of which were first shared via @EvidenceAgainstBassnectar.
Ramsbottom alleges that Ashton contacted her via direct message using the Bassnectar Twitter account in September 2012. Knowing she was underage, she claims, he gave her his phone number and kept in contact with her. During their conversations he allegedly said her last name was “really sexy” and told her every guy wanted to sleep with her, among other sexually charged comments.
In May 2013, Ashton allegedly invited Ramsbottom to meet him at the Marriott Hotel in Memphis following his performance at Beale Street Music Festival. Ramsbottom alleges that he took her to his room where he had sex with her after refusing to wear a condom. Afterwards he paid her $1,000 in cash, she said.
According to the complaint, Ashton met with Ramsbottom again several weeks later while staying at the Lowe’s hotel in Nashville. It alleges that he kept her in his room for four days, demanding that she hide when room service arrived and getting upset when she answered her phone. He also allegedly exerted a controlling influence on her personal life by telling her who to be friends with and what major to pursue in school, among other things.
Ramsbottom alleges she saw Ashton in person for the last time in November 2013. The lawsuit states that in she reached out to him in 2019 to tell him she was undergoing therapy to work through her experiences with him. In spring of the following year, when accusations against the artist began to surface, he attempted to call and email her. When she finally spoke with him on June 3rd, he allegedly admitted to illegally trafficking her and carrying on similar relationships with other underage girls.
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Ashton first contacted Bowling around April 2014, also through the Bassnectar Twitter account, according to the complaint. He allegedly offered her tickets to a Las Vegas show which she drove out to attend, only to be refused entry on account of being under 18 at the time. Ashton allegedly met her near his hotel afterwards instead, where he kissed and touched her while hiding in the bushes. Afterwards, he gave her $300 in cash.
Around July 1st Bowling allegedly met with Ashton again, this time at the Lexington Griffin Gate Marriott. They had sex and he paid her $1,600 afterwards, according to the suit. Roughly two weeks later they allegedly met again at the Hyatt Hotel in Cincinatti, Ohio and then once again at a hotel in Covington, Kentucky. The complaint states that during both visits, Ashton had sex with her multiple times.
According to the lawsuit, Ashton coerced Bowling into sending him nude photos on numerous occasions. From 2014-2016 he allegedly bought her flights to locations around the country, requiring her to stay in his hotel room for the majority of each trip. They allegedly last spent time together at his home in California in October 2016.
If the allegations are found to be true, Ashton’s conduct would constitute sex trafficking as it is defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). Any minor solicited for interstate, commercial sex is considered to have been trafficked, according to the TVPRA, as is anyone coerced into sex – which the suit argues Ashton did by leveraging the fame afforded to him by the Bassnectar brand.
Ashton’s companies – as well as firms with which he conducted business – are also complicit, according to the complaint. He founded and headed up Amorphous Music, Bassnectar Touring, and the Interactive Giving Fund, allegedly using the latter two entities to recruit and sexually exploit young girls. Red Light Management and C3 Presents are alleged to have profited from their business relationships with Ashton while he was trafficking girls. It argues that they either knew, or should have known that he was recruiting underage girls for illegal activity.
In total, the lawsuit includes three counts: one of child pornography against Ashton, another of sex trafficking against him, and one of sex trafficking against the aforementioned companies.
Ashton has vehemently denied the allegations. “These outrageous claims – which were clearly designed for the media, rather than for the courts – are completely without merit, and we eagerly look forward to proving so,” said his attorney, Michael Schuster, in a statement.
If found guilty, though, Ashton and the aforementioned companies will be implicated on sex trafficking charges of a scope never before seen in the electronic music industry. Shortly after the #MeToo movement unfolded in 2017, EDM DJ Datsik quit touring and stepped down from his record label after allegations of his sexual abuse emerged. The accusations never found their way to the courts, however – and while those lodged against now deceased superstar DJ Erick Morillo were brought up in a sexual battery case, none of his companies, managers or business partners were named as defendants.
It’s also not outside the realm of possibility for the Bassnectar lawsuit to be escalated from a civil case to a criminal case. Sex trafficking and child pornography are federal offenses, after all, and the chances would further increase if the civil case is heard in a federal court. As outlined in provision 18 U.S.C. § 1595 of the TVPRA, a criminal investigation would temporarily halt the civil one, and it would potentially spell more severe penalties for Ashton.
For their part, however, the attorneys representing Ramsbottom and Bowling say the civil case is currently their focus.
“Right now our goal is to get justice, help these women move on with their lives, and hold him accountable for what he did to them. What is now permanently a part of their past is something they want to prevent from happening in the future to other vulnerable, young girls,” attorney Alexandria MacMaster told Selector over the phone.
I believe they were brave to come forward at the risk of being ostracized, blacklisted by an entire community, victim shamed, and victim blamed,” she continued. “They were brave to come forward and we just want to advocate on their behalf and see the right resolution for them.”
To that end, Laffey, Bucci & Kent have encouraged Ashton’s alleged victims or individuals with additional information about his alleged illegal activity to call the firm’s hotline at (855) 382-3385. Anyone who would like to share personal accounts of sexual misconduct in the dance music industry can also email firstname.lastname@example.org with guaranteed confidentiality.