Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Koch Takes Dim View of So-Called Hostage’s Case

(CN) - Billionaire William Koch again urged a federal judge to dismiss claims that he imprisoned a former executive, calling the executive's objections "futile" and "meritless."

In an October 2012 federal complaint, Kirby Martensen said he was suddenly fired after serving as an executive for several companies owned and controlled by Koch, including Oxbow Carbon & Minerals.

Koch founded the Oxbow Group in the 1980s after leaving his family's oil-refining conglomerate, Koch Industries. Oxbow Carbon is the largest distributor of petroleum coke in the world.

Just before he was fired, Martensen had allegedly uncovered a plot by Oxbow Carbon to evade $200 million a year in federal taxes.

But Koch countered last month that Martensen was fired for using his executive position to defraud Oxbow.

Neither dispute that Martensen and other executives were fired at Koch's secluded Bear Ranch outside Aspen, where they had been lured under the pretenses of a company getaway.

Martensen said Koch held him at the ranch against his will, guarded by a paid security detail and unable to get help because of poor cellphone reception.

In opposition to Koch's motion to dismiss, Martensen told the court about new evidence that supposedly proves Koch "planned and directed the false imprisonment."

In a Wednesday-filed rebuttal, Koch argued that none of Martensen's new claims hold up.

"Defendant William Koch's motion to dismiss should be granted because plaintiff Kirby Martensen admits that he was not imprisoned at Koch's Colorado ranch," the brief states. "Martensen states under penalty of perjury that, during the alleged 'imprisonment,' he was in fact provided with a cellular telephone and told that he 'could talk [on the telephone] for as long as the minutes lasted.'"

Though this proves that Martensen could have called for transportation off the ranch, Koch said Martensen "chose not to do so."

Slamming Martensen's "conclusory" allegations of a principal-agency relationship, Koch also said there is no evidence that unnamed individuals at the ranch had been acting as his "agents."

"The complaint does not allege facts to show that Koch himself committed any wrongdoing nor does allege specific factual bases to support the bare legal conclusion that the unnamed individuals the Complaint involved in the purported misconduct were Koch's agents," the brief continues.

Martensen had sought in his last brief to have the court take notice of a report on his so-called imprisonment prepared by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Undersheriff Randy Barnes allegedly ordered the investigation after media reports about the lawsuit revealed that Koch hired the department's Deputy Sheriff Clarence Hart to patrol his ranch in a squad car, which would constitute a violation of police policy.

Hart purportedly admits in the report that he was paid $50 an hour to be on hand while "some employees were being fired."

But Koch has countered that such reports are inadmissible because they are "not the type of document about which there can be no reasonable dispute."

Precedent holds that a "court knows nothing about the investigative process which led to the report's conclusions, and it cannot access the report's validity," according to the brief.

Koch added that Hart's testimony nevertheless disproves Martensen's imprisonment claim since the deputy is quoted as saying he "didn't do anything at the ranch besides hang out," and spent much of the day "reading a book."

Koch also repeated his insistence that the Northern District of California is not the proper venue for Martensen's complaint.

Though Martensen pointed to the fact that Oxbow has California offices there, and that Koch has "significant" business contacts there, Koch called these claims "a hodgepodge of purported jurisdictional contacts, none of which is pleaded in the complaint and none of which supports the exercise of general jurisdiction."

Martensen also cannot rely on the fact that he was allegedly forcibly flown back to California after leaving the ranch.

"Flying Martensen back to his desired destination is not an intentional act expressly aimed at California that Koch or any agent knew would cause harm 'likely to be suffered in the forum,'" the brief states.

If the court decides not to dismiss, it should transfer the case to Florida, where Koch lives, or to Colorado, where the events in question occurred, Koch said.

"Martensen has not presented any evidence to controvert the facts that Koch resides in Florida (which Martensen admits), has never owned real property in California, only sporadically visits California, and does not have contacts with California relating to Martensen's complaint," the brief states.

Koch also asked the court to strike Martensen's claims for punitive damages. He is represented by John Hueston from Irell & Manella in Newport Beach, Calif.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.