Sex-Abuse Suit That Ended Sequoia Partner’s Career Stumblesand
Goguen calls her claims an attempt to ruin his reputation
Former dancer says she’s being overrun by a wealthy adversary
The sex-abuse lawsuit against former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Goguen may be foundering long before it reaches trial.
Amber Laurel Baptiste and her attorney parted ways last month, delaying a hearing on whether she can dig into Goguen’s past to back up claims he mistreated her for more than a decade and reneged on a $40 million settlement.
Goguen was a fixture in Silicon Valley, having worked with hundreds of security and networking companies and taken nearly a dozen public during his 20 years at Sequoia, one of the oldest and most successful venture firms in the world. That ended in March when Baptiste sued. Since then, she’s split with her lawyer and has been called out in court filings by Goguen’s attorneys for sending them harassing e-mails and missing court dates while she tries to find new counsel. What’s more, she’s Canadian and either can’t or won’t return to the U.S. (according to Goguen’s filings, she’s gotten into trouble with immigration; according to her, she’s afraid to enter the country) so if she represents herself, she’ll have to do so by phone.
In Goguen’s first public comments since he countersued for extortion and defamation, he said he’s determined to vindicate himself.
“When someone has gone this far to destroy your reputation with a laundry list of false and horrible allegations not supported by a single fact or shred of evidence," Goguen said in an e-mail, “you don’t stop the fight until you’ve achieved unambiguous victory on all fronts.”
Baptiste, once an exotic dancer, said she met Goguen at a Texas strip club and he promised to free her from human traffickers in exchange for sex. After abusing her for 12 years, he pledged to pay her $40 million but still owes $30 million of that, she claims.
Goguen said the affair was consensual and he paid her $10 million to keep it private when they broke up, but she tried to blackmail him for more.
When Baptiste filed her case March 8, her lawyer was Los Angeles litigator Patty Glaser. In July, Glaser withdrew from the case, citing irreconcilable differences and a communication breakdown. She declined to comment further.
Glaser’s firm said in a court filing Thursday that that Baptiste owed it $631,061 for representing her.
Baptiste didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the latest filing. While Baptiste said Glaser’s departure was amicable, court records show she took steps to fight it but missed dialing in for the hearing when the judge approved it.
“My lawyers, we just didn’t see the case going the same way so I just decided that I would go and hire a new firm," Baptiste said in an Aug. 5 phone interview.
As of Thursday, there was nothing in San Mateo Superior Court records in Redwood City, California, indicating that Baptiste has a lawyer for the next hearing on Aug. 30. One deposition has already been taken with Baptiste -- in Vancouver -- and Goguen’s lawyers have asked for another.
Meanwhile, Goguen is trying to add new claims to his countersuit, saying Baptiste lied when saying he gave her a sexually transmitted infection and used his donation to a nonprofit started in her name called Every Girl Counts for personal expenses, according to court filing.
Baptiste said she’s being overwhelmed by a wealthy adversary: “He’s just a very powerful party and I’m the weaker party.”
Baptiste said she’s still looking for a new lawyer. In the meantime, she’s sent Goguen’s lawyers 20 text messages and a five-page e-mail cited in court documents in which she accused them and their private investigator of stalking her, linked their actions to her half-brother’s father’s death, and included a poem saying, “May the blood of my rape be smeared over the walls of your law firm."
Goguen, now living in Montana, said he’s working on projects with the state and local entrepreneurs.
“My name certainly suffered severe public harm due to the false claim,” he said in the e-mail. Still, “the shame and damage to my family caused by my infidelity was my fault alone.”