ST. LOUIS • Mark Bates has never been charged in the pipe bombing of his former law partners’ home, but he’s been identified very publicly as a key suspect. In fact, Beth Boggs and her husband, T. Darin Boggs, filed a damage suit against Bates about six weeks ago, alleging that he set off the two explosions on Oct. 1, 2010, that caused no injuries but damaged their house near Carondelet Park.
Now Bates is suing Beth Boggs, alleging that private communications among her and others have cost him two former clients — and in September, his job. His suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court makes no reference to the Boggses’ suit against him in St. Louis Circuit Court, which seeks unspecified damages for property damage, battery, assault and emotional distress.
Beth Boggs, through her attorney, disputed the claims on Thursday. Bates did not respond to requests for comment.
The new suit also draws in part of the strange history of the Clayton-based law firm, which some have likened to a John Grisham novel.
Bates claims Boggs defamed him by saying he was responsible for the murder of Ernest Brasier, a lawyer found dead on Dec. 19, 2006, in a third-floor office of what was then Boggs, Boggs & Bates. Brasier, 57, was believed to have suffered a heart attack until a medical examiner noticed a small bullet wound above his left ear. The murder remains unsolved.
Braiser had been working on what had been the computer of another attorney there, Daniel Bennett, 48, who some weeks before the murder abruptly left the firm, divorced his wife, left the country and then returned. On Sept. 20, 2007, Bennett was found dead in his apartment; the cause of death was hypertensive heart disease. Police said at the time that Bennett was not a suspect in Brasier’s killing.
In April 2008, Bates left the firm that he had founded with Beth and Darin Boggs nine years earlier, and joined Rynearson, Suess, Schnurbush & Champion. According to his suit, he took about 300 clients with him, including Gallagher Bassett Services and Auto-Owner’s Insurance.
Bates alleges that in the weeks after the bombing, Beth Boggs called the two clients and told them Bates was a suspect, which caused them to end their business with him. He says that in July 2012, she made similar statements to members of his new law firm, and told them that she intended to file a lawsuit “and seek maximum publicity.”
Bates says in the suit that Boggs made the defamatory comments about Brasier’s murder to members of her own firm, and also falsely said that Bates had gambling debts, was going through a divorce and had an illegal assault weapon in his vehicle.
The Boggs firm is also named as a defendant in Bates’ suit, which seeks more than $25,000 on eight counts of tortious interference and one claim of defamation.
Dan Curry, the attorney for the couple in their suit, said Beth Boggs insists she never made any of the statements indicated, with the exception of what was true: that Bates was being investigated in the bombing.
When seeking an order of protection last year, Darin Boggs told a judge that agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had shown him a video of Bates buying a pipe, end caps and lacquer thinner from a Home Depot in Ferguson a week or so before the bombing, and that the officers identified Bates to him as a suspect.
Those types of materials were found on the Boggses’ property after the bombs exploded.
Bates, who repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination at the hearing, acknowledged that federal agents had searched his home in Kirkwood, seizing computers, tools and other materials.
Court records show that federal agents had identified Bates as the person who bought the materials from the Home Depot as early as October 20, 2010, and that in the following month they began tracking his whereabouts with a GPS device.
“The Boggses are concerned about their personal safety, but they’re not concerned about this lawsuit because it has no merit,” Curry said Thursday.
Regarding Bates, Curry said, “I don’t know why he lost his job, but maybe it was because he pleaded the Fifth when somebody asked, ‘Were you involved in a bombing?’ ”
Bates, in a response filed Thursday, denied all of the claims in the Boggses’ suit and filed a motion to strike the part of the suit that referenced animosity after Bates was allegedly caught forging documents and stealing from the office. Bates denies doing so and says the claim was “inserted for its scandalous impact.”