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Judge Dismisses Terlingua Business Owner’s Defamation Case Amid Claims Of Sexual Assault

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

Last week, a Kerrville-based judge threw out a civil lawsuit that’s been stirring up tensions in south Brewster County for almost half a year.

In September, Jeff Leach, owner of the vacation rental business Basecamp Terlingua, sued local woman Katy Milam for making what his attorney has called false defamatory statements against him.

Milam alleges that Leach attempted to sexually assault her while she was his employee. She filed a police complaint at the time but did not press charges. Her claim is the basis of Leach's defamation suit against her.

Since then, at least five other people — four of them women — have either come forward — or had their experiences have come to light in police records — accusing Leach of similar offenses, from physical and sexual assault to rape. Their accounts are included in court documents associated with the case.

Leach’s defamation suit against Milam was dropped by presiding judge Stephen Ables on Feb. 6, before going to trial in the 394th District Court. Ables dismissed the case pursuant to Chapter 27 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

Before the civil suit was tossed out, the Brewster County District Attorney’s office stated that records pertaining to Leach and allegations from multiple women of sexual assault are being used in the "detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.” Whether this will lead to criminal proceedings in court remains to be seen.

Tune into the audio player at the top of this page to hear Marfa Public Radio’s Carlos Morales speak with reporter Sally Beauvais, who's been following this case, about what led to its dismissal.

Full disclosure: Liz Rogers, one of Katy Milam's attorneys, is on the board of Marfa Public Radio. Board members and financial supporters of the station do not have any role in the editorial decision-making process at Marfa Public Radio.