Time/date: 8:30 a.m., Monday, June 14
Place: El Paso County Courthouse, Judge Ronald Crowder’s chambers
The event: The long-delayed trial of Case # 08CV3286, North County Land LLC et al v. Mason Investments III LLC et al.
Defendants and plaintiffs in attendance: Jack Mason and two lawyers. Ray Marshall, five lawyers, and a paralegal.
Interested observers in attendance: Linda Dix from the economic crimes unit of the DA’s office; several former investors in various of Marshall’s projects who have either been involved in lawsuits against him or are contemplating such action; Jack Mason’s parents; a journalist; and yet more lawyers.
To be decided: Mason alleged that Marshall, without his knowledge or approval, used $1.6 million belonging to North County Land as collateral for leveraged trading in securities at UBS, where he maintained personal and corporate accounts (managed, it appears, by Mayor Lionel Rivera). Dissatisfied with Marshall’s alleged failure to account for these transactions, Mason sued.
The original suit was settled, but, Mason alleged, Marshall failed to comply with the terms of the settlement – so Mason sued again. Marshall countersued. The suit was scheduled to come to trial on Feb. 20, but Marshall’s attorneys asked for a stay. The reason (verbatim from court documents): “Plaintiff Marshall motion for stay due to criminal allegations by Defendant Mason to DA-Granted …The FTR record of this proceeding ordered sealed pending further order of the court.”
The trial was scheduled for 8:30. Nothing happened. Judge Crowder was nowhere to be seen. Groups of lawyers wandered in and out of the courtroom, conferred in hallways, came back, left again. The attorneys had the satisfied mien of men who were each earning several hundred dollars an hour for standing around and waiting for something to happen.
Understanding nothing, I spotted an attorney of my acquaintance who happened to be passing by, and asked for his take.
“They’re gonna settle,” he said.
And how, I asked, did he know this?
“I’ve practiced law for a long time,” he said, “and I know how I’d advise a client in a similar position. (David) Isbell, (John) Cook – they’re as good as they come. They’ll do what they have to – but (Ken) Siegel (Mason’s attorney) is just as good. I’d love to be there when they close the doors, and hammer out a deal. Don’t bother to wait around – the terms will be confidential, and no one will talk.”
Sure enough, after another 15 minutes elapsed, we were all shooed out of the courtroom, the doors were closed, the judge ascended to the bench, and the parties made a deal. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and the court records thereof were sealed.
One last note: Before the doors were closed, Marshall spotted an investor in one of his projects, cornered her in the hallway, waved a piece of paper in her face and demanded that the investor sign it on the spot, and thereby settle their dispute.
“He wanted me to sign something he’d drawn up, without showing it to my lawyer, without consulting anyone,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it – but I guess that’s just Ray.”