© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Criminal Justice

Strange Court Saga For Martin Phipps Takes A Stranger Turn

Phipps and Duesing
Straughan Photography
/
Martin Phipps and Caroline Duesing at an art gala. Phipps claims his ex-girlfriend sold clothes belonging to his business through a consignment store. He sued the consignment store but not Duesing last month.

Martin Phipps — who is both the county’s co-counsel on its lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and the subject of an investigation over alleged telephone harassment while under the influence of drugs — finds himself at the center of another controversy.

His company, Holy Spirits LLC, sued the consignment store Too Good To Be Threw over hundreds of pieces of clothing that his ex-girlfriend sold, allegedly without the company’s permission.

The consignment store responded to the lawsuit by saying all sales were above board. It alleged it was actually Phipps who was acting untoward. In its latest court filing, Too Good To Be Threw accused Phipps of “outrageous” behavior that included two years of legal threats, making a scene that they said required them to call the police, and using another woman to imitate his ex-girlfriend to gain records.

Holy Spirits LLC does business as Paramour, Phipps’ rooftop bar. Represented by PhippsOrtizTalafuse, Holy Spirits says Phipps’ ex-girlfriend Caroline Duesing took the clothes from the business without permission and sold them.

Duesing — who is not a defendant in the lawsuit — has denied the charges, saying Phipps asked her to sell the clothes, and she did. In a statement from her lawyer she said the clothes were Phipps’ “no-longer used clothing” and called the allegations made in the lawsuit false. They were first reported by the San Antonio Express-News.

“The claims reported in the article are false, disparaging, harassing, mean-spirited, intimidating and frivolous. Out of respect for the integrity of the investigations into Mr. Phipps, Caroline has nothing more to say at this time,“ wrote Ted Anderson, her lawyer.

TPR reported that San Antonio police officers were scheduled to interview Duesing earlier this year as part of an investigation into Phipps after his arrest for allegedly harassing his now ex-wife, Brenda Vega. SAPD has interviewed some former employees who haven’t worked for Phipps in several years.

“Holy Spirits is a victim of a crime and is pursuing remedies through the justice system. It looks forward to presenting its evidence to the court and is confident the factual record will clearly and unambiguously support its case,” said a spokesman for PhippsOrtizTalafuse, which represents the company.

Phipps and his lawyers threatened Too Good To Be Threw since 2019, the year he and Duesing split, according to the store's court filings.

The filings alleged a woman showed up at the store in either 2019 or 2020, claiming to be Duesing. She asked to access a list of the things she sold. The store declined to provide the records when the woman was unable to show identification.

According to court documents filed by Too Good To Be Threw, the woman showed up another time with Chase Hardy, a then-lawyer at Phipps’ firm. Hardy allegedly said he was there on Phipps’ behalf and identified the woman as Duesing. When the store asked for her ID, the pair provided a photocopy of Duesing’s driver’s license. The woman with Hardy did not resemble Duesing’s photo ID, according to court filings.

“Mr. Hardy was confronted with this allegation, and he immediately ordered the young woman to go to the car. Mr. Hardy then threatened the staff of TGTBT with potential legal action,” read court documents.

A spokesman for the firm called the allegations “preposterous” and said the firm had and used legal means — including a subpoena — to get the documents in question.

In a final episode, according to the store's court documents, Hardy showed up with Phipps, who became belligerent.

“Eventually TGTBT asked Phipps and Hardy to leave. The actions of Phipps in particular, were so outrageous that TGTBT called the police, who appeared at the location after Phipps and Hardy had left,” the court documents added.

“This never happened. The police were never called and no police officer showed up at the store when Phipps was there. In fact, no police report was made about this alleged incident,” said the Phipps spokesman.

Hardy left Phipps’ firm in January, as part of an in-house revolt that saw several prominent staffers — including then partner TJ Mayes — exit.

“I don’t think I can comment on that,” Hardy said when TPR contacted him about the incidents.

After reviewing the court filings, Hardy sent a follow up email:

“I had very minimal involvement in this particular matter. I’ve since left the firm and have no information regarding the case,” he said.

A letter signed by Hardy and five other staffers at the end of his time there said that Phipps had been creating a “hostile and abusive” workplace and that he had a “persistent display of homicidal fantasy.”

A spokesman for the firm disputed the claims in the letter at the time.

Phipps mugshot
Bexar County
Martin Phipps was arrested Feb. 8 for allegedly harassing his ex-wife. He has yet to be charged and is fighting the case in court.

Phipps has been in the spotlight since his arrest on Feb. 8 for the alleged harassment of an ex wife. That followed the public falling out with his now former law partner TJ Mayes. This year, he has battled in court over the excess funds from the repossessed sale of his private jet, and he was sued by at least two separate companies who said he never paid them. One lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn.

The lawsuit against Too Good To Be Threw seeks more than $250,000 in damages despite the list of clothes filed with the county district clerk, which reported the clothes were sold for around $6,000. Holy Spirits argued in the suit that Too Good To Be Threw and its owner Linda Reams neglected to take necessary precautions to prevent stolen goods being sold there.

“Reams indicated that TGTBT asks its employees to rely on any 'funny feeling' they may receive from customers to determine if an item is stolen,” read the petition.

The store said that in 42 years it has never sold stolen goods because of precautions it has taken. It used those same precautions when Duesing started bringing in the items between 2016 to 2017.

The items of clothing listed in Holy Spirits’ lawsuit are largely men’s, though some women’s items are included in the court documents. A former Paramour employee who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisals said the items listed don’t appear to be uniforms but sizes listed for the menswear were consistent with that of Martin Phipps.

Duesing and Phipps dated for more than four years, according to her lawyers.

According to two former employees of Phipps’ firm, after the couple split up employees were asked to scour purchases made by his ex.

Lawyers for Too Good To Be Threw asked for a hearing so Holy Spirits LLC can elaborate on the dates it believed the consignment store broke the law. Since many of the clothes were sold more than two years ago, the alleged violations may all be beyond the statute of limitations.

The hearing was set for July 29.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.