Thomas Ravenel, best known for starring in Bravo’s Southern Charm, is in the midst of controversy following a woman’s accusation that he sexually assaulted her mother, whom he allegedly paid $200,000.
(“My client enjoys a certain degree of fame and unfortunately has become – unfairly – a target for an individual who has, in my opinion, dubious motivations,” Ravenel’s attorney, Robert P. Terbrusch, tells PEOPLE in a statement.)
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Read more about Ravenel’s triumphs and legal troubles below, from growing up in a prominent Charleston, South Carolina, dynasty to his now-defunct political career and serving 10 months in federal prison.
The Ravenel Name
Thomas, 55, comes from an influential family in the South Carolina political scene. He is the son of Arthur Ravenel Jr., who served in the South Carolina Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. (Arthur even has a famous bridge named after him.)
Thomas, who also works as a real estate developer, is an eighth-generation descendant of the French Huguenots who came to Charles Town in 1686.
In 1995, Thomas married Mary Ryan, but they separated 13 months later and were legally divorced in 1998.
With a well-recognized surname and generations of politicians on his family tree, Thomas himself ran for public office multiple times.
In 2004, he campaigned for a seat in the U.S. Senate but came in third in the Republican primary election. In 2006, Ravenel was fined $19,500 by the Federal Election Commission for improperly filing the required forms for the election.
That same year, Thomas ran for South Carolina Treasurer and won the general election.
In 2007, Thomas was indicted and pleaded guilty on federal cocaine distribution charges. Ravenel’s cocaine use allegedly started when he was 18 and at its height, he used one to two grams every couple of weeks, according to a court report provided to the judge during his hearing.
Thomas also sampled other drugs including marijuana and ecstasy, according to the report.
Not only was he forced to resign as state treasurer, but Thomas was also sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and three years of probation.
“I’m not trying to say that wasn’t a stupid move … doing cocaine and sharing it,” Thomas told S.C.’s The State in April 2014. “But, obviously, justice was not blind. I got a worse sentence than the drug dealer, how’s that work? He had a thousand customers. What happened to the other 999? … What I do in the privacy of my own home should be my own business.”
WATCH: Southern Charm‘s Shep Rose on Kathryn Dennis & Thomas Ravenel’s Relationship Status: ‘They Do Not Need to Be Together’
In July 2013, Thomas was arrested by East Hampton Village police. Then, in March 2014, he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated and was fined $1,400, according to multiple local reports.
Though his political career was short-lived, Thomas gained fame through Bravo’s Southern Charm. The show debuted in March 2014, and Thomas was one of the seven socialites featured.
Though Thomas had been known as a bachelor around town, Southern Charm viewers were quickly introduced to love interest Kathryn Calhoun Dennis, who is three decades younger than him.
From pregnancy scares to officially becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, the pair had dramatic storylines in season 1, welcoming daughter Kensington, now 4 years old, in the finale. In season 3, Thomas and Kathryn welcomed their second child, son St. Julien Rembert, now 2½ years old.
Though they officially split in April 2016, their tumultuous relationship escalated into a years-long custody battle over their two kids. In July 2017, Thomas was awarded full custody and Kathryn was required to complete a stint in rehab after failing a drug test.
Since his split from Dennis, Thomas has found love with new girlfriend Ashley Jacobs, a nurse from Santa Barbara, California, who moved to Charleston for him.
Sexual Assault Allegation
Real estate agent Ashley Perkins alleges to PEOPLE that her mother, Debbie Holloway Perkins, met Ravenel on dating app Tinder in October 2015 and went on a last-minute first date with him on Dec. 25 of that year. Ashley also detailed the allegations on her website last month.
Ashley says her mother “acted very withdrawn” before she confided in her daughter that Ravenel ” ‘stuck his penis in my face.’ ”
“Her wrists were starting to look bad the next morning. I said, ‘We need to see who we’re dealing with.’ She didn’t want to do anything. She was scared to go to court. I said right now you don’t want to do anything, let me take a picture of your wrist. Let’s get some evidence in case you want to do something,” says Ashley, 29.
On June 1, 2016, Debbie and Ashley participated in mediation. According to Ashley, her mother signed a non-disclosure agreement with Ravenel and received $200,000.
Southern Charm airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.