As Leach trial continues, district attorney and Airbnb take note

ALPINE — It’s been a little over three months since Jeff Leach, a prominent Terlingua man and founder of Basecamp Terlingua, filed a defamation lawsuit against an alleged assault victim. Katy Milam, a former employee at Basecamp, told police in July that Leach had allegedly pinned her down and told her “he gets what he wants.” In a lawsuit filed in September, Leach accused her of “extreme and outrageous conduct” and making “false defamatory statements.”

Then, in November, two more women gave affidavits accusing Leach of sexual assault and rape, as The Big Bend Sentinel first reported. One woman alleged Leach raped her. Another alleged Leach sexually assaulted her.

The Big Bend Sentinel also reported on a fourth woman who received a temporary restraining order in 2017 after Leach allegedly threatened her. That woman has not responded to requests for comment.

The defamation lawsuit was set to have a hearing last week, but that did not happen. Instead, Judge Roy Ferguson reportedly recused himself.

At press time, Brewster County courts do not yet have any records on Ferguson’s recusal, and Ferguson’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Ferguson is the judge who granted the fourth woman a restraining order in 2017 after Leach allegedly threatened her.

As the case unfolds, authorities and at least one company are watching. Since reporting our initial story, The Big Bend Sentinel has filed multiple records requests with the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office and district attorney’s office seeking information about Leach. In an email to The Big Bend Sentinel, Brewster County District Attorney Sandy Wilson says she could not provide records on Leach because she’s using them “in the detection, investigation or prosecution of a crime.”

Last month, an Airbnb spokesman also confirmed to The Big Bend Sentinel that it had kicked Leach off its website as a result of the sexual assault allegations. Leach was previously a “super host” on the vacation-rentals site.

Court filings from this month offer more context on that termination. In an email, dated November 22 and attached as a court exhibit, an Airbnb employee tells Leach the company has “decided to remove” him after “a routine review.” He cites The Big Bend Sentinel’s previous reporting on “multiple sexual assault allegations” against Leach, which he says violate “Airbnb community standards.”

Meanwhile, Leach’s defamation case against Milam, who also goes by Schwartz in court filings, has continued. Leach’s lawyer, Rae Leifeste, earlier this month filed court documents disputing the allegations made by Milam and the other women. In it is an affidavit from Jeff Leach.

“I did not force myself on or assault Katy Schwartz in any way,” he states. Instead, he states that “any contact between us was totally mutually consensual” and that it “never progressed” beyond “making out.” He states he had “multiple pleasant communications” with Milam after the alleged assault, when he was apparently still her boss.

He states he had consensual sex with the woman who filed an affidavit alleging he raped her, including on the date of the alleged rape. That woman has asked The Big Bend Sentinel not to publicly identify her in our reporting.

The filing includes a photo of one alleged victim with Leach after the alleged assault occurred, which is presented as evidence that the assault did not happen. It also includes multiple affidavits from women, including Leach’s girlfriend, disputing the alleged victims’ versions of events.

Milam’s lawyers, Jodi Cole and Liz Rogers, have continued to argue in court filings that Milam has a legal right to speak publicly about her alleged assault. They have also filed more of their own affidavits, including from a Basecamp employee who states she saw Leach “doing mushrooms and marijuana at work” and from a man who states Leach allegedly attacked and injured him at a construction job in 2018.

In another filing from last week, Cole and Rogers also showed Leach had been arrested for allegedly assaulting the fourth woman who later obtained a restraining order against him.

In an incident report from September 2015, a deputy with the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office responded to a property in Terlingua after that woman called 911 to report she’d had an “altercation” with her boyfriend and was “worried he will come back.”

The woman told the deputy that Leach allegedly “went off on her for no apparent reason,” “began throwing things around the house,” “grabbed her and shoved her around” and then left, according to the report.

The woman called her brother, who “attempted to block the door to keep Leach from entering the residence” after Leach returned. Leach allegedly “grabbed him by the wrist and shoved him against the door,” the report states.

The deputy said the woman was “visibly shaken.” In his report, he said he’d tried to question the woman but that she was “extremely evasive” and “made it clear from her answers that she didn’t want to get Leach in trouble and was trying to protect him.” Her brother made a voluntary statement to authorities corroborating her version of events.

When the deputy questioned Leach at his home, Leach said the woman had “jumped on him and attacked him” — allegedly hitting him on his neck and head around 20 times, he said. But the deputy found no “signs of a struggle” on Leach. He “determined Leach to be the aggressor” and arrested him for assault/family violence.

In follow-up court filings from that woman, which are also included in Cole and Rogers’ filings, she also alleges Leach assaulted her at least twice more: once in Terlingua in March 2016, when he allegedly threw her on a bed and rubbed “blood in her face,” and once in Paris in September 2016.

Another court hearing is scheduled for January 10.