Trial set for Aspen attorney embroiled in fight over Cargill money
A federal judge has set a February trial date for an Aspen attorney’s lawsuit that alleges his reputation was smeared when he represented an heir to the Cargill agribusiness fortune.
Lawyer David Bovino’s lawsuit — filed against Old Snowmass homeowner Patricia MacMillan and her daughter-in-law Christina MacMillan — accuses the two of hatching a plot to sully his reputation while severing him from client Andrew Cargill MacMillan.
Andrew MacMillan is the son of Patricia MacMillan, the ex-wife of the late John MacMillan III. Christina MacMillan is Andrew MacMillan’s wife.
Bovino’s suit claims the two defendants were key figures in a smear campaign to have him disbarred. They also accused him of illegal drug use, and at one point he received a death threat, Bovino claims.
On Sept. 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty issued a pre-trial order, while District Judge Philip Brimmer set a trial for Feb. 25 in the U.S. District Court of Denver. The trial setting comes after a series of failed settlement discussions, court documents show.
Bovino originally filed suit against Patricia MacMillan in Pitkin County District Court in May 2011; the suit was transferred to Denver’s federal court in March 2012, and Christina MacMillan was added to the complaint.
trust-fund dispute and hacked emails
Andrew MacMillan hired Bovino to represent him in 2010. Andrew MacMillan had expressed frustration with his mother’s overbearing nature and also was mulling the removal of the Swiss bank UBS as the controller of his trust fund.
“Patricia MacMillan and Andrew MacMillan have a hostile, tumultuous relationship dominated by greed and his drug addiction and mental illness,” states the pre-trial order, which is a summary of claims by the plaintiff and the defense. “Family friends and employees have provided sworn statements describing Patricia’s constant need for Andrew’s money but also her desire to control him and his trusts. Andrew has echoed his mother’s expressed desire to control him.”
MacMillan’s multimillion-dollar trust fund was left behind by his non-biological father, John MacMillan III, ranked by Forbes in 2006 as the world’s 645th richest person. MacMillan III, who died in 2008, is the great grandson of the founder of Cargill Inc., the largest privately held company in the U.S.
Part of Patricia’s MacMillan’s controlling nature, the suit says, was revealed when she hired a high school graduate to be his tutor in 2008. By 2010, the tutor had become pregnant — the mother had encouraged Andrew MacMillan to become romantically involved with her. In November 2010, the two were married at an off-strip Las Vegas wedding chapel “at his mother’s insistence and over his objections,” the plaintiffs allege in the pre-trial order. That December, newly married Christina MacMillan gave birth to a son. Andrew MacMillan was 21 at the time and had said he didn’t want the child.
The following January, Andrew MacMillan informed Bovino that he no longer wanted UBS to oversee his trust. All the while, “Unknown to Bovino and Andrew, Christina and Patricia had already begun hacking into Andrew’s attorney-client privileged and confidential emails sharing their contents with UBS,” states the pre-trial order.
The emails continued to be intercepted, and in February 2011, Christina MacMillan, aware of Bovino’s advice to Andrew MacMillan to get a divorce, filed a domestic-violence charge against her husband, resulting in his arrest. That March, Andrew MacMillan, now 26, began to seek substance-abuse rehabilitation following a drug arrest in Florida, but UBS would not fund his stay at the Crossroads facility. Meanwhile, his wife continued to intercept email exchanges with Bovino, while UBS “was also independently trying to undermine Bovino by looking for dirt on him,” according to plaintiff’s allegations in the pre-trial order.
“It is indisputed that Bovino’s confidential and privileged emails were being stolen, in real time, by Christina and Patricia, who forwarded them to … UBS,” reads the order.
Continued efforts by Bovino to get his client in rehab fell short after a Florida county judge revoked Andrew MacMillan’s bond for the domestic-violence arrest and sent him to jail, the pre-trial order says. Around the same time in 2011, UBS filed a grievance with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation alleging that Bovino had exerted undue influence over Andrew MacMillan. No action was taken by the state office.
In March 2013, a Florida judge assigned Patricia and Christina MacMillan as the co-guardians of Andrew MacMillan, who also had been committed to a mental facility in the state. UBS also remained in charge of his trust.
“Once again, Patricia and UBS, and now Christina, were in charge of Andrew’s personal and business affairs,” the plaintiffs said in the pre-trial order.
Yet, Bovino seemed to be in the middle of it all, despite losing contact with Andrew MacMillan.
“In the words of Christina, the only thing that concerned her was Bovino,” Bovino’s attorneys claim. “And in the words of (UBS attorney Timothy) Kelly, echoing that concern, the real issue was not Andrew’s well-being but rather, ‘winning the Battle of Bovino.’ The ‘Battle of Bovino’ consisted in UBS, along with defendants Christina and Patricia, engaged in a relentless character assassination of Bovino, among each other, lawyers in this litigation and among Bovino’s friends, clients and strangers in his hometown of Aspen, where he lives and practices law. The goal was to hang onto control of Andrew and his money by ending his relationship, both personally and professionally, with Bovino.”
Bovino also alleges that on Oct. 1, 2013, private investigator Larry Dearman, a former bodyguard for MacMillan III, visited Bovino in Aspen and threatened to have him killed if he repeated the nature of their conversation.
MacMillans blame Bovino
The defendants claim that Bovino tried to exploit Andrew MacMillan’s fragile mental state by seeking power of attorney.
“(Bovino’s) desire to seize control of Andrew MacMillan’s finances and person is the true drive behind their case,” the defense stated in the pre-trial order.
They also alleged that Bovino interfered with mental competency evaluations for Andrew MacMillan — both of which were connected to his arrests for drugs and domestic violence. In March 2013, Andrew MacMillan began a one-year stint in a lock-down mental-treatment center in Florida, before being transferred to a substance abuse and psychological facility.
“None of this deterred David Bovino in his quest to obtain control of Andrew MacMillan and his trusts,” the pre-trial order says. “For some time prior to the initiation of the competency proceedings, David Bovino has been interfering with efforts to get Andrew MacMillan treatment for mental-health issues and substance abuse.”
Bovino also has a separate lawsuit pending against UBS in Denver federal court.
Bovino did not return a message left at his Aspen office Friday. Attorneys for both Patricia and Christine MacMillan also didn’t return phone calls.
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