A former bandmate of Dave Matthews Band member Boyd Tinsley claims the violinist sexually harassed him for years. A lawsuit has been filed in King County Superior Court.

Share story

A former bandmate of Dave Matthews Band member Boyd Tinsley claims the violinist sexually harassed him for years, including masturbating next to him when he was asleep.

Former Crystal Garden trumpet player James Frost-Winn told online music publication Consequence of Sound that he met Tinsley, now 54, in 2007 when he was a homeless 18-year-old in San Francisco. The two struck up a friendship that lasted for years, he said, but things got inappropriate just a few years later.

Frost-Winn relocated to Seattle in December 2015 at Tinsley’s request, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court. The four Crystal Garden bandmates, not including Tinsley, would move into an Airbnb apartment in Fremont the following year. Tinsley allegedly paid for their living expenses and gave each of them a $750-per-month stipend, as well as access to his credit card for travel outside Seattle, according to the complaint.

A representative for Dave Matthews Band did not immediately return a request for comment, but told Rolling Stone: “Though Boyd is no longer a member of the band, we are shocked by these disturbing allegations and we were not previously aware of them.” (While Dave Matthews Band was formed in Virginia, Matthews now lives in Seattle.)

In February, Tinsley announced he was taking a break from the band.

In 2009, during the Outside Lands Music Festival, Frost-Winn claims that Tinsley, who has two children with wife Emily, invited him to the event, but said he couldn’t bring his friends along. When the young man declined, Tinsley allegedly responded with a text calling him “sweet, tender, and innocent.”

“It threw me off because he had just given me this nice gift of the passes. I immediately responded saying that I wanted to make sure that he knew that I wasn’t interested in him like that,” Frost-Winn told Consequence of Sound.

“He responded that sometimes people do good things without expecting things in return … and that made me feel guilty, and I apologized. He said he wasn’t trying to hit on me.”

The two still kept in touch and, in July 2015, the trumpeter joined Tinsley’s new band, Crystal Garden. Frost-Winn claims Tinsley continued to make sexual comments, but the worst incident came after Tinsley “freaked out” during a recording session, accusing the band of not taking their work seriously. After the group calmed down the violinist, Frost-Winn said he went to sleep on a couch in the studio, only to be woken up by Tinsley rubbing his legs and back.

“I don’t know how long I was asleep, but when I came to, he was masturbating next to me while I was sleeping, and he had his hand on my a — . He was climaxing,” Frost-Winn told Consequence of Sound. “I sat there for hours; I was so freaked out. I felt assaulted. It was something I didn’t expect from him. I was contemplating how to stay in the project — it’s such a big opportunity, but my trust had been affected.”

When confronted, Tinsley allegedly claimed he had mixed up his medication.

Still, Frost-Winn stayed friends with Tinsley, who allegedly continued to send explicit texts, including graphic descriptions for photo shoots.

“I have to sexually exploit you as much as I can without looking like I’m sexually exploiting you,” he allegedly wrote in a text to the young musician.

Frost-Winn decided to leave Crystal Garden in August 2016, around the same time that he claims Tinsley brought up the masturbation, which he had previously denied remembering.

“This time he spoke about it in full clarity; he said, ‘The way you looked while you were sleeping, I couldn’t control myself,’ ” Frost-Winn told Consequence of Sound. “At that moment, I knew he had lied about not being in the right state of mind … coupled with all the things that had happened in between, I immediately realized I couldn’t trust him.”

On Feb. 2, Frost-Winn’s lawyers reportedly sent a demand letter to Tinsley, looking for an out-of-court settlement for assault and harassment. The same day, Tinsley announced that he was taking “a break” from touring and from the Dave Matthews Band to “focus on my family & my health.”

“I will miss you guys & my brothers in the band but I’m somewhat worn out & need 2 spend more time with my family & 2 bring more balance to my life,” he tweeted.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Frost-Winn accused Tinsley of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. He’s suing for damages for “loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and humiliation.”