The legal fight involving venture capitalist and Whitefish philanthropist Michael Goguen — action that spawned counter-lawsuits, FBI investigations and a separate civil lawsuit by the Whitefish police chief — came to a close last month with a $10.25 million ruling in Goguen's favor.
Judge Danny Y. Chou filed his proposed statement of decision in California Superior Court on Dec. 20, ruling in favor of Goguen's counter-lawsuit claims, including extortion, fraud, harassment and invasion of privacy, among other claims. Chou's decision awarded Goguen $10 million in compensatory damages against Amber Baptiste, along with another $250,000 against Baptiste and her charity, Every Girl Counts.
Goguen is perhaps best known locally in Montana as the sole benefactor of the Two Bear Air helicopter rescue service. The decision closes the book on a three-year legal tangle between Goguen and Baptiste, whose initial lawsuit against Goguen in 2016 claimed he breached a contract to pay her $40 million to sever their ties. Baptiste's lawsuit came armed with allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse "for over 13 years." Goguen fired back with a counter-suit less than a week later, contesting Baptiste's claims as "horrific acts" fabricated to extort millions more from Goguen through the courts.
In September 2019, a retired judge presiding over Baptiste's case granted Goguen's motion to dismiss the case, citing Baptiste's "failure to comply" with court orders to turn over evidence in the case.
"Ms. Baptiste intentionally fabricated a vicious and highly damaging story about Mr. Goguen, casting herself as the victim — and media organizations around the world repeated her tale," Goguen attorney Diane Doolittle said in a release on Friday. "As in September, when her lawsuit against Mr. Goguen was dismissed, a court has once again found that Ms. Baptiste committed perjury and concealed, destroyed and falsified evidence."
Along with the damages, Chou's decision also orders Baptiste be prohibited from repeating false and defamatory statements she has previously made on social media.
Chou's damages ruling also puts Every Girl Counts on the hook for damages. On May 16, 2013, Goguen wired $250,000 to Every Girl Counts after Baptiste repeatedly solicited him for donations, according to court documents. The "charity," however, had no board of directors, no officers or employees, nor did it support 36 girls, as Baptiste had claimed. Instead, Baptiste used part of Goguen's charitable donation to commission "fantasy paintings of herself at a cost of over $40,000," according to Chou's filing.
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The Baptiste case last year splintered into two other legal matters. In one case, a California man who had reportedly worked with Baptiste has been charged in U.S. District Court for trying to extort $15 million from Goguen. Bryan Nash, indicted on 10 counts of interstate stalking and one count of intent to extort, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Dec. 16.
In the other case, filed in Flathead County District Court last month, Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial alleges Goguen sought to influence law enforcement over the last two years while Goguen was the subject of a criminal investigation. Dial alleges that after he removed a detective from the case for lack of objectivity, Goguen went to city officials "demanding" the chief be fired.
While the details of that investigation had not been defined in Dial's lawsuit, Goguen's Montana attorney, Richard Hegger, said in a statement to the Missoulian on Friday that it had been related to the Nash case. Hegger claimed Friday that Dial sent "libelous" information to Nash, and "false" information to an "unvetted" Whitefish Police volunteer believed to be collaborating with Nash.
"Chief Bill Dial's lawsuit is blatant retaliation against Mr. Goguen for notifying city and state authorities that he was abusing his position as Chief of the Whitefish Police Department," Hegger said in the emailed statement. "Mr. Goguen considered Chief Dial's communications to be malicious and improper, and exercised his right to report a civil servant's abuse of power to the appropriate authorities."
Goguen had not filed a response to Dial's lawsuit in Flathead County District Court Friday afternoon.
Kalispell attorney Marcel Quinn, who represents Dial in his civil complaint, did not immediately return a voicemail seeking a response to Goguen's statement.