A jury Wednesday awarded an Aspen man $7,800 after he sued his former financial advisor, an amount that is less than a quarter of what he had sought after contending the defendant lost nearly $40,000 of his retirement savings.
“We won,” said the defendant, Doug Wilson, also of Aspen, who represented himself in the three-day trial brought by Dana Knight. Wilson declined further comment.
The amount reflects the investment-management fees Wilson took for himself during the three years or so that he handled Knight’s retirement accounts. Knight sued Wilson in 2016 for fraud, breach of contract and violating the Colorado Securities Act, claiming that he agreed to let Wilson invest only $2,000. He testified that he signed documents prepared by Wilson, not knowing they allowed the defendant to take control of accounts he said reflected 10 to 15 years of savings.
A former co-owner of the Smuggler Mine who had no experience in stocks and investments, he unknowingly signed the paperwork because “I trusted Doug,” Knight testified.
Wilson then proceeded to invest and lose the money in high-risk gold and mining stocks — including $10,000 in one month. He blamed that particular loss on a toothache and medication that he said caused him to oversleep and miss a trade, according to the lawsuit.
It was one of many unusual aspects of the litigation, peculiarities that continued Wednesday as the trial concluded.
In response to a juror’s question involving former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, Wilson said Braudis tried to prevent him from being a stockbroker so Wilson could continue to assist the then-sheriff with shadowy operations in the 1980s.
“Bob worked for the federal government, in a very high level of government,” he testified. “Bob was one of the top four or five CIA operatives of all time, and I was his right-hand man.”
He said they took orders directly from the late former president and CIA director George H.W. Bush and were on loan to the U.S. Secret Service from the CIA.
“I didn’t want to mention this because it sounds so tremendously outlandish,” he told the jury.
Braudis agreed, calling Wilson delusional and “in dire need of mental-illness assistance.”
Wilson told the jury that he once had a Learjet, a Rolls-Royce and three homes, all paid for by the Secret Service.
“I’m not going to say it wasn’t fun, and I’m not gonna say it didn’t make people on the street jealous. … [but] it was a nasty, nasty lifestyle,” he testified.
The jury’s decision, which came after nearly two hours of deliberation, clearly angered both Knight and his attorney, Joe Krabacher of Aspen.
“The jury largely ignored all the crazy claims about Bob Braudis, Joe DiSalvo [who testified briefly Tuesday], working for the CIA, them being on loan to the Secret Service,” Krabacher said.
Just before reaching the verdict, the jury of three women and four men sent up a question about whether Wilson’s now-dissolved financial firm, Ajax Capital Management, would still be able to pay damages despite it being insolvent. Judge Chris Seldin of Pitkin County District Court, after consulting with the parties, declined to answer the question.
“As far as I can tell, the reason we didn’t get an award on the [breach-of-contract] claim may have had to do with the fact that Ajax was no longer in existence,” Krabacher said.
The jury awarded Knight $7,806 under his claim related to violating the Colorado Securities Act, which Krabacher said allows him to file a motion for attorney fees against Wilson — who told the jury that that amount exceeds $100,000.