In May 2021, Grammy-nominated, multiplatinum country star Jimmie Allen visited “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to promote his latest project, a children’s book titled, “My Voice Is a Trumpet.” Images flashed across the screen of Allen with his wife and kids, as he spoke about his recent wedding and gushed about his new baby girl.
“When you see things happening that shouldn’t, stand up for it,” Allen said on the talk show as he shared the inspiration behind his book. “It’s so important to teach them at a young age,” he continued. “That way, they grow up to be adults that still have that same confidence to speak up for themselves and speak up for other people.”
As Allen was giving this advice, a woman in her early twenties from his management team was standing backstage. She alleges that while she was employed by the singer’s management company as Allen’s day-to-day manager, Allen raped her and repeatedly subjected her to sexual abuse and harassment over a period of 18 months. In the 24 hours leading up to his “Ellen” appearance, Allen allegedly assaulted this woman as they traveled together, groping her breasts on the plane, pushing his erect penis against her body in public and masturbating in front of her at the hotel where they were both staying, the woman told Variety. Once they left the taping and got into the car, she says he forced his fingers into her vagina while she tried to yank his hand away.
Two months before his “Ellen” appearance, Allen allegedly raped this same woman during a different work trip to Los Angeles, in March 2021, when he was filming an episode of “American Idol” as a celebrity guest, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Tennessee federal court in which the woman is identified as “Jane Doe.” She claims that following a business dinner after the “Idol” taping, she woke up naked in her hotel room in severe pain and bleeding vaginally, having remembered nothing of what happened the night before. She says Allen was laying next to her in bed, and insisted she take a Plan B pill. She realized she had lost her virginity through no choice of her own and felt she had betrayed her faith.
“I was disconnected from my body, feeling a sense of panic,” she tells Variety. Disoriented and confused, she says she remembers Allen saying, “‘I’ve been thinking about this for so long.’” She adds: “He held me in place. At that point, any physical will was just out the door. I was pretty much paralyzed.”
In a statement to Variety, Allen claims that he had a consensual sexual relationship with his day-to-day manager.
“It is deeply troubling and hurtful that someone I counted as one of my closest friends, colleagues and confidants would make allegations that have no truth to them whatsoever,” Allen says. “I acknowledge that we had a sexual relationship — one that lasted for nearly two years. During that time, she never once accused me of any wrongdoing, and she spoke of our relationship and friendship as being something she wanted to continue indefinitely. Only after things ended between us, did she hire a lawyer to reach out and ask for money, which leads me to question her motives. The simple fact is, her accusations are not only false, but also extremely damaging. I’ve worked incredibly hard to build my career, and I intend to mount a vigorous defense to her claims and take all other legal action necessary to protect my reputation.”
Jane Doe’s attorney pushes back on Allen’s claim that her client ever asked for money, stating, “The only ask we made of Allen and his legal counsel was to meet to discuss Allen’s behavior and resolution of our client’s claims. At no time did our client make a monetary demand. The response was a hard no, and colored with threats that his team would take steps to publicly tarnish my client. My client had no choice but to be proactive in protecting herself by filing the complaint.”
Off-stage, Allen’s personal life has recently been making headlines. On April 21, Allen and his wife announced their separation. They did not cite any reason for their split, but shared that his wife is pregnant their third child.
The woman — who requested to remain anonymous in order to protect her identity and because she still works in the music industry — is suing Allen, as well as her former employer, Wide Open Music, and Ash Bowers, its founder. Bowers discovered Allen in 2016 and with his management firm, he helped catapult the performer to country music superstardom. He is also credited as a producer and songwriter on all of his albums. In two conversations with Variety, and in the lawsuit, the woman claims she was manipulated and groomed by Allen into a sexually abusive relationship that lasted for over a year and a half.
Jane Doe says she reported some of Allen’s verbal harassment to her boss on numerous occasions. When she told Bowers about allegedly being raped and sexually abused, Wide Open Music dropped Allen as a client — but according to her lawsuit, they also terminated her.
Bowers tells Variety that he did not fire Jane Doe for retaliation. He says once the company parted ways with Allen, her position was eliminated. “[Jane Doe] was the day-to-day manager for Mr. Allen,” Bowers says. “Once Wide Open Music no longer managed Mr. Allen, that role was gone and, furthermore, [the company] has transitioned out of artist management completely.”
Before the alleged workplace abuse, Jane Doe was excited to land her first artist management job after college. “It was my dream of dreams to work and be part of the music community in Nashville,” the woman tells Variety. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 2019, she worked in UTA’s Nashville office where she was soon poached by Wide Open Music to join Allen’s team as the country star’s day-to-day manager. Allen was Wide Open Music’s biggest client, and the job was a huge opportunity. She helped plan and execute his publicity, Global release schedules, promos, social media plans, marketing, touring and attended all appearances with him, often required to travel alone with the star.
But while she was helping manage Allen’s career, she says the country star subjected her to a “torrential cycle” of ongoing abuse and harassment. Her lawsuit claims that Allen “made clear her job was dependent on her staying silent about his conduct.”
In the reporting of this story, two sources — a friend and Jane Doe’s mother — spoke to Variety to verify her claims, recounting her telling them about the alleged abuse. Variety reviewed hundreds of Jane Doe’s text messages with Allen, Bowers, her friend and family members that corroborate parts of her story.
In her lawsuit, Jane Doe alleges that Allen raped her while choking her, sexually abused her at red lights when she drove him to and from business events and looked at porn on her work computer. Jane Doe tells Variety that she said “no” and tried to push Allen away during many sexual interactions, and after she had been allegedly coerced and forced to have sexual intercourse with Allen, she would regularly bleed, cry uncontrollably and run to the bathroom to vomit. Despite these signs, she says Allen failed to acknowledge her physical and emotional pain.
Allen videotaped multiple sexual encounters “to blackmail her to stay silent,” according to the suit, while she says he insisted Jane Doe surrender her own phone and other electronics when they were together.
Every allegation cited in the lawsuit and discussed during Variety’s interviews occurred while Jane Doe was working on Allen’s team at Wide Open Music. Most of the alleged abuse took place when she was assigned to travel alone with the star. Variety has reviewed travel documents and photos that place Jane Doe at many of the locations and events that she describes in this story.
“I have to tell this story because there’s no way I would let my daughter near a situation like this. My life has been turned inside out because of Jimmie Allen,” she says.
In the civil lawsuit against Allen, Bowers and Wide Open Music, filed on Thursday with the United States District Court of Tennessee, Allen is being sued for sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment, sex trafficking and emotional distress; Bowers and Wide Open Music are being sued for gross negligence and participating in a venture engaged in sex trafficking, among other counts. Jane Doe is represented by attorney Elizabeth Fegan, founding partner of the Chicago-based firm FeganScott, who has previously represented women who have accused Harvey Weinstein and female students abused in the USC gynecology scandal. Jane Doe is requesting a jury trial and is seeking undisclosed monetary damages.
“Wide Open Music knew that Jimmie Allen regularly engaged in sexual harassment but required Plaintiff to work with him anyway,” Fagen writes in the suit. “Wide Open Music knew that Allen was dangerous, and assigned Plaintiff to be his Day-to-Day Manager anyway. Wide Open Music did not adequately warn or prepare Plaintiff for, or protect her from, the extreme sexual harassment, abuse, grooming, and manipulation she would endure in order to keep her job.”
Bowers tells Variety he and the company were unaware of “the existence of a sexual or physical relationship” between Allen and Jane Doe until she set a meeting with him to disclose her allegations of physical sexual abuse on Oct. 4, 2022, more than a year and a half after she alleges the harassment and abuse began. Bowers says as soon as Jane Doe informed him of any physical allegations, “We immediately ended our professional relationship with Mr. Allen.”
Allen’s departure from Wide Open Music in late 2022 happened quietly, without attracting press attention, even though he was the company’s top client and one of the most promising stars in modern country music. In December 2022, he signed with the boutique management firm, The Familie, which mostly represents professional athletes and also Machine Gun Kelly. (The management firm did not respond to Variety’s request for comment.)
Allen has ambitions that stretch far beyond music. The groundbreaking artist has cultivated an All-American, family-friendly persona and his face is everywhere: He co-hosted the 2022 ACM Awards with Dolly Parton, shared a hit single with Brad Paisley, performed on a float at the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, won best new artist at the CMA and ACM awards, competed on the 30th season of “Dancing With the Stars” and recently served as a judge on Apple’s music competition show, “My Kind of Country,” executive produced by Reese Witherspoon. Three of his first four singles went No. 1 at country radio, a rarity for a debuting artist in the format. As a 25-year-old, Allen, now 37, competed on the tenth season of “American Idol” in 2011, making it to the Top 40; he’s the only “Idol” alum, aside from Carrie Underwood, to be nominated for best new artist at the Grammys.
According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe is not the first female employee to be terminated from Wide Open Music after speaking up about Allen’s alleged conduct. Before Jane Doe was hired as Allen’s day-to-day manager, the company had fired Allen’s previous day-to-day manager after she “defended another woman who was the target of Allen’s sexual advances,” the suit claims. Given that Wide Open Music had fired Allen’s previous manager (who was later rehired at the company in another division), Jane Doe “understood that her job was dependent on tolerating Allen’s misconduct,” her attorney writes.
Bowers was aware of his client’s behavior, the lawsuit says, even warning Jane Doe during her hiring process that Allen “was known to push inappropriate sexual boundaries.” During her interview process with Bowers, he advised Jane Doe that Allen was “promiscuous but harmless,” according to the suit, “implying that it was inevitable that Allen would make sexual advances” on her.
“I didn’t think that meant predator,” she says. “I didn’t think that meant Jimmie would be a threat to me.”
When Jane Doe was hired at Wide Open Music in April 2020, she says the sexual harassment began almost immediately.
She began her job in the early days of the pandemic. The World was shut down, but she was required to be on the road with Allen. The very first time she met Allen in-person was for a remote capture for CMA Summer Jam in May 2020. She says moments after meeting, Allen shouted from the stage, “Are you single?” She says that during a performance at the Ryman in 2020, Allen yelled her name from the stage, once again, this time publicly exclaiming, “I love you.” She says the call-out made her feel embarrassed in front of an auditorium full of agents and other industry figures.
Allen commented regularly on Jane Doe’s appearance and her status as a single woman, according to the suit. He also allegedly made inappropriate, sexual comments about her personal life.
At a studio session at an iHeart facility, Allen allegedly made comments loudly in front of representatives from his label, BBR Music Group, about whether Jane Doe was on birth control. The suit says that during a phone call in May 2020, just one month after Jane Doe was hired to work with Allen, the singer asked if she was a virgin.
A friend and former colleague of Jane Doe tells Variety that she vividly remembers Jane Doe telling her about this phone call. (Variety has reviewed over 150 text messages between Jane Doe and her friend where she told her about the alleged abuse in real-time, and shared concern over losing her career if she spoke out against Allen.)
The alleged verbal workplace harassment eventually escalated. Within less than a year of working with Allen, Jane Doe says she was raped.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged assault occurred in March 2021 when Allen was filming “American Idol.” After the taping in which Allen was featured as a celebrity mentor, Jane Doe accompanied Allen to a dinner at the West Hollywood celebrity hotspot, Craig’s, with a small group of executives. During the dinner, she says Allen started touching her leg under the table. “Suddenly, my throat closes and my heart is pounding,” she recalls. “Jimmie is whispering to me, ‘This is going to happen, this is going to happen.’” At dinner, Jane Doe drank two glasses of wine, along with a full meal. But after that, she says she has no memory of getting back to her hotel.
“Allen sexually assaulted Plaintiff, while she was incapacitated and incapable of giving consent,” the lawsuit reads. “She lost consciousness and awoke naked in her hotel room several hours later, with Jimmie Allen insisting she take Plan B as soon as possible.”
Groggy and confused, when Jane Doe left the hotel to head to the airport by herself, Allen “grabbed her and forcibly kissed her goodbye,” per the lawsuit, whispering, “You’re mine now.”
On the plane ride from Los Angeles to Palm Beach, Florida, she could barely make sense of what had happened. “I felt a lot of pain. My body felt very sore,” she recalls. “My mind and heart were catching up because my body was the proof that I was raped, but I did not even know how to register that. Rape felt so abstract to me. How could that happen to me?”
Jane Doe was flying to join her family for a pre-approved vacation that would be her first days off work since she started the job nearly a year prior. After she landed, mentally and physically distraught from the night before, her phone lit up with texts from Bowers requesting she fly back to Los Angeles to accompany Allen at an appearance on “Family Feud.” Two days later, Jane Doe was back in Los Angeles with Allen as he participated on the Steve Harvey game show with his wife. After Allen’s wife walked onto set, in a brief private moment backstage with Jane Doe, she recalls Allen whispering to her, “I missed you.”
“I burst into tears. I’m sobbing like a toddler,” she says. “I’m telling him, ‘I don’t even know what happened, and I respect you and your family and this job too much to ever let this thing happen again.’ I’m sputtering words. And he goes, ‘Well, I enjoyed it,’ and then he started dying laughing.”
“After that point,” she continues, “I was never the same.”
Jane Doe says she was scared that if she went public with her allegations about being raped by Allen, she would never work in the music industry again. She says that for the next year and a half, she felt forced into continuous sexual intercourse with the singer, which she says was impossible to avoid.
“Allen made clear that Plaintiff’s job was dependent on her staying silent about his conduct,” the lawsuit states, adding that Allen manipulated his power and influence over Jane Doe’s role as his manager “to recruit and entice Plaintiff to private locations, including his hotel room, home, car and event locations, where he would perform sex acts.”
Jane Doe shares a series of events with Variety where Allen allegedly assaulted her at work, including during a visit to “The Late Late Show With James Corden” where she says she yelled at him after he forced her hand onto his crotch backstage. When Allen toured with Carrie Underwood, featured as a special guest on her 43-arena nationwide “The Denim & Rhinestones Tour,” there was an incident where he allegedly groped Jane Doe in the greenroom at rehearsals. Jane Doe’s friend tells Variety she recalls hearing about this incident.
“I was like, ‘What if Carrie walks in?’ He was like, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ He kept trying to pin me down. I was like, ‘I’m scared,’ and he said, ‘I know, it’s such a turn on,’” she recalls.
Jane Doe says Allen had no fear in being caught with her. He acted in plain sight, many times with his family nearby.
She claims the singer would not stop calling and texting her while he was in the Maldives on his honeymoon. Jane Doe’s mother tells Variety she observed Allen calling her daughter repeatedly the day his wife was in labor with one of their children. “He was a very intrusive presence in our family’s life,” her mother says.
Variety has reviewed multiple texts between Jane Doe and Allen, where he often uses the term “signing books.” Jane Doe alleges that this was his code word for sex. In one text that was sent during his honeymoon, when Allen references “books,” Jane Doe responded, “I’m just being shy because I know why you’re out of town this week” to which Allen wrote back, “Don’t be a pussy.”
Ahead of Allen’s Rose Parade performance for New Year’s 2022, Jane Doe was tasked with bringing a COVID test to his home in Tennessee where, she says, he allegedly forced her into sex, while his infant daughter was in the next room.
“I’m walking into his driveway to drop off a test, and he shuts the garage door,” she says. “He takes my arms, he’s like, ‘Come on, come on, just really quick,’ and he’s grabbing my hips, turning me around. He pulls his pants down. I said ‘No.’ He kept grabbing me and turning me around.”
After this incident, Jane Doe says she didn’t get out of bed for days. She didn’t go to the Rose Parade with Allen. It was the first time she had ever skipped a work obligation. She told Allen’s tour manager she had a personal emergency.
A few weeks later, Jane Doe says she was allegedly assaulted by Allen throughout a weekend work trip out of the country for Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Playa” music event. Her friend who spoke to Variety says she recalls Jane Doe calling her from her hotel room in Mexico, describing her as “inconsolable.” After Mexico, she texted her sister –- in a message that Variety has reviewed — to ask for the suicide prevention hotline number.
Another business trip that Jane Doe’s friend says was one of her “lowest points” throughout the entire 18 months occurred in February 2022 for yet another “American Idol” guest spot, this time in Hawaii for the show’s 20th season. Jane Doe says she was in such pain from the repeated alleged sexual abuse, she needed medical attention. After being greeted by Ryan Seacrest, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, as Allen was headed to the “Idol” stage on the beach, Jane Doe stepped away to ask a production staffer for a nurse.
“Plaintiff almost collapsed on set … and was rushed to the emergency room,” the lawsuit says.
Without naming the singer, she told the doctor about the “vicious cycle with Allen,” according to the suit. (Variety has reviewed Jane Doe’s medical bill from this day to confirm her visit to the ER.) “The doctor advised Plaintiff to ‘run’ and get far away from Allen, documenting the vaginal trauma on her person,” the suit states.
Jane Doe says Allen called during the hours she was at the hospital. As she was hysterically crying into the phone, she remembers him laughing at her. “Oh, they think you were raped?” she alleges he said. “You just need to pee next time.”
Months into the alleged abuse, Jane Doe says she was noticeably different. Many in her orbit observed concerning changes.
“I witnessed it with my own eyes: Her crying for hours, throwing up uncontrollably from anxiety,” says Jane Doe’s friend with whom she was regularly communicating about the abuse. (Jane Doe did not report the March 2021 rape to authorities, but she did tell this friend roughly one month after the alleged assault.) Over the course of the 18 months, her friend put Jane Doe in touch with a therapist and eventually staged an intervention with her parents to get her out of her abusive workplace relationship.
“She became a different version of herself,” she says, describing her as “withdrawn, guarded and frequently having panic attacks.”
Jane Doe lived at home with her parents while she was working for Wide Open Music, and her mother says she witnessed her daughter’s psychological deterioration during the time she worked with Allen. Without knowing the cause of her extreme work-induced stress, her mother and father grew increasingly concerned. Eventually, Jane Doe’s mother confirms, her daughter informed her she was being sexually abused by Allen.
In July 2021 — two months after Jane Doe says she approached Bowers to discuss Allen’s alleged verbal sexual harassment — she was called into his office for an impromptu meeting. “While Plaintiff was sitting in her office, Plaintiff’s distress was noticeably visible,” the suit reads. “Bowers and another Wide Open Music executive met with Plaintiff and asked if anything was wrong. Plaintiff said that Allen was difficult to work with.” Bowers’ solution, per the lawsuit, was to travel less with Allen. In the suit, Jane Doe’s attorney writes, “This instruction was meaningless given the role of a day-to-day artist manager is to act as a gatekeeper and frontman at the artist’s events and appearances — making all such trips essential.”
In March 2022, Jane Doe sat down again with her boss to tell him that Allen was “humiliating” her, according to the lawsuit, but she did not speak about any alleged sexual assaults. The suit claims Bowers suggested she confront Allen “one-on-one” and said that Allen “would suffer” if she were to leave her job.
Wide Open Music did not have a Human Resources department. In April 2021, the suit claims that Allen opened a pornographic website on Jane Doe’s work computer. Allen’s hair and makeup assistant witnessed the incident and reported it to Bowers. According to the lawsuit, Allen “ensured the hair and makeup assistant was fired for being a ‘snitch.’ Thereafter, Allen required anyone that he hired to sign a non-disclosure agreement.” Despite the makeup artist’s complaint to management at Wide Open Music, the suit states that Bowers did not investigate the incident or take “appropriate or sufficient action to protect” Jane Doe. (Variety reached out to the makeup artist numerous times, but she did not respond for comment.)
Jane Doe’s alleged abuse continued for over a year and a half until October 2022 when Jane Doe sat down with Bowers to disclose that “she had been raped and sexually abused,” the lawsuit says, and “told him she could not put up with Allen’s abuse any longer, and asked that she be reassigned.” (This was the first time she informed Bowers of any alleged physical assault.) As she was sharing her allegations of continuous abuse on the job, Bowers suddenly excused himself from the meeting, the suit claims, telling Jane Doe, “I can’t hear any more of this.”
After that meeting, Bowers instructed Jane Doe and other employees to stay home from work, while the company was “still unwinding things with Jimmie,” according to the lawsuit.
“I am so disgusted, disturbed, confused, manipulated, as well as embarrassed by all of this,” Bowers wrote to Jane Doe and another employee, in a text that Variety has reviewed. “I don’t think I should be doing anything until I take some time off to sort through all of this. I am wrecked.”
Soon after, Wide Open Music dropped Allen as a client. And before the end of the month, they also terminated Jane Doe.
“Rather than reassign her,” the lawsuit reads, Wide Open Music “placed Plaintiff on leave and then fired her.”
Chris Willman contributed to this report.
Originally published at variety.com