A local businessman who touted himself as a personal manager for underage girl musicians and singers has been charged with rape, sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure.
A Rutherford County grand jury handed down indictments last week against Ronald Copeland Hicks, 66, of Mt. Vista Drive, Vonore. Blount County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Hicks Dec. 7 and held at Blount County Jail over the weekend, then transported to Rutherford County Jail Monday Dec. 10.
Hicks owns and operated Pop Korn’s Gourmet Popcorn in Maryville and is said to have also posed as a personal manager and talent scout looking for young female musicians and singers. While Hicks was contracted to be the victim’s manager for approximately six months in 2011, her family reportedly moved to Greenback to be closer to Hicks.
A Murfreesboro Police report states, “The victim, a 14-year-old girl, came to Murfreesboro with Mr. Ron C. Hicks. The victim and her parents stated that they had a contract with Mr. Hicks to be their daughter’s personal manager. The victim is a singer. In May of 2011 Mr. Hicks and the victim came to Murfreesboro to watch a band. At some point Mr. Hicks took her to the Double Tree Hotel parking lot and gave her a margarita. While in Mr. Hicks’ car, he forced himself on her and stuck his hand up the victim’s shirt and fondled her breasts. He also put his hand down her pants and penetrated her with his finger. The victim gave a much more detailed discloser that was compelling and credible.”
Rape is a Class B felony. The sentence for a class B felony is not less than eight nor more than 30 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $25,000.
Sexual battery by an authority figure is a Class C felony. The sentence for a class C felony is not less than three years nor more than 15 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Sexual exploitation of a minor is unlawful possession of material that includes a minor engaged in sexual activity; or simulated sexual activity that is patently offensive. A violation of this section is a Class D felony; however, if the number of individual images, materials, or combination of images and materials, that are possessed is more than 50, then the offense shall be a Class C felony. If the number of individual images, materials, or combination of images and materials, exceeds100, the offense shall be a Class B felony.
The penalty for a class D felony is not less than two years nor more than 12 years in prison. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Under Tennessee sentencing guidelines, a sentence may be reduced to 30 percent by the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
A Dec. 17 arraignment has been scheduled in Rutherford County Criminal Court.
By Wes Hall