Defamation claim remains in Aspen vendetta lawsuit

The Aspen soap opera between a wealthy investment fund manager and a lawyer he thinks is out to get him can continue to play out in the form of a civil lawsuit, a district judge has ruled.

However, the judge dismissed two and a half of the three claims made by Nikos Hecht against David Bovino in the civil lawsuit, while admonishing Hecht for practicing the exact behavior he wants to punish.

“The court wonders if Hecht is not himself, by filing this case, engaging in just the sort of exercise he alleges Bovino previously undertook: an effort to punish an adversary with transaction costs and other associated collateral consequences of litigation,” District Judge Chris Seldin wrote. “The court sees no value in consuming judicial resources in such tit-for-tat strategies.”

Hecht — an Aspen native who also is a developer — sued Bovino in November alleging abuse of the legal process, defamation and outrageous conduct. Bovino — also an Aspen native — has represented or co-represented three women who have sued Hecht since 2015 in civil court alleging domestic abuse in one case, rape in another and conspiracy to defraud in the third.

Hecht settled the case alleging domestic abuse for an unreleased amount, was found not guilty of the rape case by a civil jury almost exactly a year ago, while the conspiracy case remains active.

Seldin spent a good portion of his decision, which was released Friday, debunking Hecht’s claims that Bovino abused the legal process. Essentially, in each of the three lawsuits, Bovino’s actions were legally allowed because he was acting as a lawyer for his clients, according to the judge’s decision.

The one sticky part of that ruling were questions Bovino allegedly asked Hecht’s father about the Holocaust and an aspect of the conspiracy case.

Seldin questioned the connection either issue had to the lawsuits, but noted that Hecht’s complaint fails to identify damages he suffered as a result of the questions asked of his father. Hecht’s father could assert damages but Hecht cannot, the judge wrote.

With the conspiracy case, Bovino was acting in his role as attorney, the judge ruled.

Seldin also dismissed Hecht’s claim that Bovino engaged in “outrageous conduct” that caused Hecht “severe emotional distress.” Again, Bovino was properly acting as attorney for these clients, and his conduct — even allegations that he allegedly termed Hecht a “rapist” to three people around Aspen — did not rise to the legal level of “outrageous,” the ruling states.

That left only Hecht’s defamation claim.

Here, Hecht alleged defamation when Bovino told a reporter for the Aspen Daily News he was investigating jury tampering claims in the federal rape lawsuit. That claim was dismissed, however, because the statement does not accuse Hecht of jury tampering. It merely indicates Bovino was investigating that claim, the ruling states.

Seldin allowed Hecht’s defamation claim over Bovino’s alleged comments calling Hecht a rapist to two Hecht employees and a resident to stand for the time being, according to the ruling.

Bovino claimed the alleged statements were made to three people who are potential witnesses in pending or anticipated litigation, the judge’s order states. Nothing in Hecht’s complaint supports that claim, which led Seldin to allow it to stand. The judge did note, however, that information filed later in the case might cause that analysis to change.