(Details on the second suit at the end of this post) For decades, those with an artistic bent have viewed quirky provocateur Stanley Marsh 3 and his Cadillac Ranch on the outskirts of Amarillo as one of the Panhandle's sole redeeming qualities, beacons of culture and mischief in a region barren of joy and fun. The ten vintage Cadillacs buried in the dust have served as the backdrop for dozens of music videos, and the sight of them cajoled a song ("Cadillac Ranch") out of no less an icon than Bruce Springsteen himself.
However, if the allegations put forth by Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee are true, the Cadillac Ranch's patron -- the 74-year-old Marsh 3 -- is little better than a more cultured, High Plains version of Jerry Sandusky, albeit one with much, much more money, thanks to the oil and gas fortune he inherited.
Or as the suit bluntly puts it, "Stanley Marsh 3 is a serial abuser of boys and young men."
Marsh 3's attorney Kelly Utsinger has denied the allegations. "It's not my usual practice to say much about pending litigation to the media, but I will tell you we will be filing responsive pleadings to deny these allegations," Utsinger told Amarillo.com.
The suit was filed by an Amarillo mother on behalf of her anonymous son on October 12 and just came to light in Amarillo media late last week. According to the suit, the John Doe in this suit was 15 when he was introduced to Marsh 3 in 2010 by a mutual friend. (Marsh 3 has long eschewed using Roman numerals after his last name, claiming they are pretentious.) According to the suit, Marsh 3 has for many years been in the habit of taking in "troubled young men, particularly those with artistic talents, under a so-called 'mentorship program.'"
The suit claims that Marsh wasted little time in commencing his abuse of Doe.
It is alleged that at one of their initial meetings in Marsh 3's downtown office suite, the elder man paid Doe an undisclosed sum of money to masturbate in front of him.
"With time," the suit continues, "there [were] more and more meetings with Marsh 3, at his office, which involved fellatio, masturbation, watching pornographic movies, and other sex acts. Marsh 3 routinely paid Doe in cash and checks, and provided Doe with alcohol and a litany of drugs. Marsh 3 bought two vehicles for Doe as well. Over the year, Marsh 3 would give Doe sums of money that at times would be as much as $10,000."
The boy reportedly became addicted to drugs, allegedly thanks to Marsh 3's providing them for him. Marsh 3 is also alleged to have forced the boy to take Viagra to stimulate his ability to perform sexually. Doe was allegedly paid for each climax he could attain.
Doe's mother said in the suit that while she found it odd that Marsh 3 would take such a keen interest in her son, she allowed him to continue his "mentorship" because Marsh 3's directorship of such "programs" was so public and widely known. Marsh 3 "had even talked with the press about it," the suit notes. "Doe's mother surmised that if these mentoring activities by Marsh 3, a prominent person in Amarillo, were at all improper then certainly Marsh 3 would have been prosecuted for any illegal acts." Immediately upon learning the true nature of Marsh 3's meetings with her son, Doe's mother reported them straight to the Amarillo police and the Potter County District Attorney's office. To date, the suit notes, neither of those offices has filed any formal charges against Marsh 3. A spokesman for the Potter County DA's office has said that they will neither confirm nor deny the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation of Marsh 3.
This is not Marsh 3's first brush with the law, nor even his first of this nature.
In 1996 he was indicted on three counts of indecency with a child. Those complaints were all dismissed.
That same year, Marsh 3 settled a civil suit filed by a young man who alleged sexual abuse. Dick DeGuerin, Marsh 3's attorney in that case, told the media at the time that settling would be cheaper than the legal fees his client would accrue defending himself. There was no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement papers.
Two years later, Marsh 3 was convicted of unlawful restraint and criminal trespass after he locked Ben Whittenburg, a teenage scion of a prominent Amarillo family with whom the Marsh family had been feuding, in a chicken coop. Whittenburg had reportedly stolen one of the droll fake street signs Marsh 3 had erected in Amarillo as part of his open-air "Dynamite Museum" art project.
In 2001, Marsh 3 settled another four suits, including one filed by the Whittenburgs over the chicken coop incident. All that is known of the other three is that they included, according to Amarillo.com, allegations of "imprisonment, sexual misconduct, and harassment of teens." Marsh 3 reportedly apologized; all other details have remained secret.
Marsh 3 reportedly suffered a series of strokes beginning in November of last year and is currently under the guardianship of his wife, Gwendolyn "Wendy" O'Brien Marsh, who is also a party to this new lawsuit. Her guardianship is the sole reason she is named in the suit, according to Buzbee.
Marsh 3's adopted son Stanley Marsh IV is also named. The suit claims that Marsh IV should have known the nature of his father's activities with Doe, "that he knew that Marsh 3 was giving Doe large sums of money for no reason." (Full disclosure: Marsh IV was briefly this writer's friend and fraternity brother at the University of Texas in 1988 and 1989. I've not seen him in about 23 years.)
Doe's attorney Buzbee is also suing David L. Weir, Marsh 3's longtime friend and business associate. The suit portrays Weir as Marsh 3's "gatekeeper," and claims that Weir knew Doe's age and the nature of Marsh 3's activities with him and did nothing to stop them. The suit also claims that Weir facilitated Marsh 3's practices by "requiring many of the [boys and young men] to sign confidentiality agreements before beginning the sexual activities."
"Doe is just one of the many victims of Stanley Marsh 3," the suit continues. Buzbee underlined that sentence himself.
Buzbee is also suing SM3, Marsh 3's limited liability corporation, and McCartt and Associates, managers of Amarillo's Chase Tower, which houses Marsh 3's office. "McCartt, as building manager responsible for security, was well aware of Doe's frequent visits to Marsh 3's office," the suit contends. "McCartt knew or should have known of the abuse considering the number of young boys who would frequently enter Marsh 3's office, with doors locked behind them."
Late last week, Buzbee told Houston's News 92.1 FM that he hopes that Marsh 3 will be prosecuted in criminal court, and added that he hopes that more victims will come forward.
UPDATE, 2:05 P.M. Tuesday, October 30
Even as we were writing yesterday's shocking story about Stanley Marsh 3's allegedly predatory ways, minions of Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee were at the Potter County Courthouse, filing a second lawsuit on behalf of another victim.
According to the suit, "John Doe #2" was 16 when he met Marsh 3, and Marsh 3 is alleged to have paid him to watch pornographic movies with him at their very first meeting. The suit claims that Marsh was infatuated with Doe because he is African-American and Marsh had "never been with one before."
The suit claims that Marsh 3 progressed from watching porn to paying the boy to expose himself, masturbate, and then to be masturbated and receive fellatio from Marsh 3. The suit claims that on some occasions, another underaged boy was involved, and as with the first suit, it is alleged that Marsh 3 plied Doe #2 with Viagra so he could perform at Marsh 3's whim.
Twenty of these encounters are alleged to have occurred over the course of 12 months (2010 and 2011), all but one in Marsh 3's downtown Amarillo office. One isolated case is alleged to have occurred at Toad Hall, Marsh 3's estate outside of town. According to the suit, Wendy O'Brien Marsh, Stanley Marsh's wife, allegedly led Doe #2 to a bedroom where Marsh 3 awaited. (Wendy Marsh is being sued both individually and as Marsh 3's guardian in this suit.)
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The suit claims that prior to his strokes last November, Marsh 3 "was always in the company of young men." It portrays his office as "a haven for young, artistic, troubled young men," many of whom had troubles with the law and/or alcohol or drug problems.
"Marsh 3's group of young men would do nothing all day, other than hang around Marsh 3's office, awaiting his instructions," the suit claims. "And, Marsh 3 would routinely pay his troupe of young men; most performed various sexual favors for Marsh 3 in exchange for this compensation."
The suit also breaks the following news: In addition to all of Marsh 3's other scrapes with the law and courts, it claims that in 2004, Marsh was sued in Potter County by an 18-year-old man for sexual assault and battery. That man claimed to have been assaulted in Marsh 3's office.
Marsh 3 reportedly settled that suit as soon as it was filed.