Prominent Whitefish investor and philanthropist Michael Goguen has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Missouri gubernatorial candidate after the Republican politician referred to Goguen as “the owner of a teenage sex slave.”
John Brunner, one of four candidates for governor in next Tuesday’s Republican primary in Missouri, made the statement during a July 13 televised debate and reiterated the accusation in a comment to the Kansas City Star newspaper.
Goguen, who donated $1 million to the campaign of Brunner’s Republican opponent, Eric Greitens, is involved in a separate civil case claiming he is the victim of extortion and has denied allegations of sexual abuse, which surfaced in a breach of contract complaint filed earlier this year in California.
Amber Laurel Baptiste, a Canadian citizen who carried on a relationship with Goguen for over a decade, filed a lawsuit in March, claiming Goguen failed to pay her $30 million to keep the details of their affair confidential.
Goguen, a successful venture capitalist who lives with his family in Whitefish and has invested in several local interests, including the Two Bear Air search and rescue program, filed a countersuit, stating he had a consensual, adult relationship with Baptiste before she became “consumed by anger, obsession and jealousy” after the relationship ended in 2013.
In the months since the original complaint emerged, a former roommate of Baptiste’s has provided sworn testimony disputing her friend’s characterization of Goguen, and the attorneys for Baptiste quit after Baptiste sent threatening emails to Goguen’s legal counsel, according to court records.
Goguen’s attorneys say the Whitefish resident is fighting to clear his name and reputation in both the Baptiste case and now the defamation suit, which was filed July 26.
“Unfortunately for Mr. Goguen, the efforts to rehabilitate his reputation have been impeded and sidetracked by Mr. Brunner’s malicious and false attack on Mr. Goguen’s character,” the lawsuit states.
In the complaint against Brunner, Goguen’s attorneys point out that Baptiste never claimed to be a teenager during their relationship, nor did she claim to be a “teenage sex slave.”
“Not only is this statement demonstrably false, it was not even alleged in Ms. Baptiste’s complaint,” the lawsuit states.
In the debate with Greitens, Brunner said, “(I) refuse to be lectured by a guy who took $1 million from the owner of a teenage sex slave.”
Brunner reiterated the accusation in an interview with the Kansas City Star, saying “I refuse to be lectured on ethics by Eric Greitens who refuses to return $1 million his campaign took from a man charged with having a sex slave for 13 years.”
A staff member for Brunner’s campaign also made a reference to Goguen on Facebook as a “sex slave trafficker.”
Although Goguen’s name was never mentioned, his attorneys say Brunner’s comments clearly allude to Goguen and leave the false impression that Goguen was criminally charged; Baptiste’s allegations came to light in a breach-of-contract civil suit and there have been no criminal charges filed against Goguen.
Goguen’s attorneys contacted Brunner and his campaign on July 15 asking that the statements be retracted and corrected. Brunner has ignored the request, according to Goguen’s attorneys.
When contacted by the Beacon seeking comment, Brunner’s campaign spokesman Gregg Keller stated, “This is a desperate attempt by Eric Greitens’ California political benefactor and friend to take attention off of what Missourians are coming to know: Eric Greitens is a lifelong liberal Democrat who drove cross-country to cheer Barack Obama at his Convention and supported Obama’s failed $831 billion ‘stimulus’ and is now attempting to convince Missouri Republicans he’s one of them.”
Goguen’s lawsuit counters the campaign’s stance, stating, “Mr. Brunner has knowingly and maliciously spread demonstrable lies about Mr. Goguen, falsely accused him of heinous acts and crimes, and defamed him simply because he donated money to one of Mr. Brunner’s political opponents.”
The lawsuit adds, “Mr. Brunner’s sustained and unfounded attacks on Mr. Goguen have caused significant and distinct harm to Mr. Goguen’s reputation and he has sustained actual damages as a result.”
With the emergence of the defamation suit, new details have come to light in the Baptiste case, which is proceeding in California court with a tentative jury trial slated for May 2017.
In the documents, Baptiste’s former roommate disputes several claims made against Goguen, particularly involving accusations of sexual assault and that Goguen spread a sexually transmitted disease to Baptiste. In a sworn affidavit, Diane Bobie Andrews refuted characterizations made by Baptiste in the original suit.
“I do not know Michael Goguen and have never met him, nor do I have any financial interest in the outcome of this lawsuit. Ms. Baptiste mentioned to me that she had a close friend named ‘Mike.’ She always spoke of ‘Mike’ in positive terms and appeared to hold him in high regard,” Andrews said, according to court records.
“There was never a suggestion made to me during the time that I have known Ms. Baptiste that Mr. Goguen raped or sexually abused her. On the contrary, Ms. Baptiste always spoke very highly of her friend ‘Mike.’ At no time did I ever hear Ms. Baptiste say anything negative about him.”
Andrews’ comments differ from the situation described by Baptiste, who claimed she suffered verbal abuse, nonconsensual sex and “demeaning sexual acts” from 2001 to 2013.
Goguen says he and Baptiste carried on a consensual relationship for several years, starting when she was 21 and he was in his 30s. They would see each other “only occasionally, typically no more than a few times a year, and largely at Ms. Baptiste’s request,” according to Goguen.
Baptiste, who was at one point married to a man in Texas, became “delusional, bitter, and jealous of Goguen’s wife and family,” according to Goguen’s attorneys. In his counter-complaint, he submitted excerpts from text messages and more than 50 emails purportedly from Baptiste expressing her love and affection for him, illustrating the consensual nature of the relationship, according to Goguen’s attorneys.
When Goguen ended the relationship, Baptiste hatched a plan to extort Goguen for millions of dollars and “punish” him for ending their affair, according to his attorneys.
According to Goguen, he agreed in May 2014 to pay Baptiste $40 million. He acknowledges paying Baptiste the first installment of $10 million “to protect his family’s privacy and reputation, and to buy peace from Ms. Baptiste’s inflammatory accusations.” Goguen claims Baptiste broke the pair’s agreement by continuing to contact him and harass him, including by making demeaning remarks about his wife. In December 2014, Goguen sent a letter to Baptiste rescinding the contract and claiming the agreement was null and void because it was procured under extortion, court records state.
Since the lawsuit was filed in March, Baptiste has sent several harassing and threatening emails to attorneys representing Goguen, according to court records.
Two days after the emails were forwarded to the law firm representing Baptiste, her attorneys filed a motion in California state court asking to be relieved as Bapiste’s counsel, citing irreconcilable differences regarding the strategy, handling and course of their proceedings, as well as a breakdown in communication.
Patricia Glaser and G. Jill Basinger of Glaser, Weil, Fink, Howard, Avchen & Shapiro, LLP, were relieved as counsel on July 26. The firm stated that the factual basis underlying the conflicts were protected by attorney-client privilege and cannot be revealed.
“Since filing her complaint, Ms. Baptiste’s story has collapsed under the weight of the lies upon which it was based,” Goguen’s attorneys stated.