By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Eccentric Texas oil millionaire Stanley Marsh 3 has been indicted on child molestation charges in Amarillo and was released after posting a bond, according to court records.
Marsh, 74, who considers the Roman numerals "III" to be pretentious and prefers the suffix "3," is best known as the owner of the iconic Cadillac Ranch, a work of public art featuring 10 brightly painted Cadillac cars buried nose-first in the ground along Interstate 40 in the Texas Panhandle.
Court records show Marsh is charged with six counts of child sexual abuse, and five counts of sexual conduct with a child. All the counts are second-degree felonies, each punishable by two to 20 years in prison. He was indicted and arrested on Wednesday.
He is accused of paying multiple boys, aged 15 to 17, to perform sex acts, according to Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee, who filed civil lawsuits against Marsh over the summer.
"We are alleging that he took advantage of these young people by offering them money to progress from small things to major sexual activities," Buzbee said. "Offering these young men money and offering them alcohol."
Houston attorneys Paul Nugent and Heather Peterson, who represent Marsh, said Marsh is not guilty of the allegations and will fight them vigorously, even though his health is declining.
"The criminal charges against Stanley Marsh 3 are mere allegations by the group of accusers who have filed a barrage of civil lawsuits against Marsh seeking millions of dollars," the pair said in a statement. "Instead of immediately reporting any alleged wrongdoing to the police, the group strategized, conferred, and waited."
The lawyers pointed out that the incidents Marsh was charged with allegedly occurred in 2010.
"After Stanley Marsh 3 suffered a massive stroke and became legally incapacitated, the group implemented their plan to become multi-millionaires by signing contracts with an aggressive personal injury lawyer from Houston," Nugent and Peterson said. "The investigation into the group's claims is far from complete. There should be no premature rush to judgment."
Marsh has suffered a series of strokes, and his wife Gwendolyn O'Brien Marsh, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits, has been appointed as his guardian. She has not been charged with any criminal offenses.
Marsh has a history of similar accusations. He was arrested on a charge of indecency with a child through sexual contact in 1996, but the boy involved declined to press charges. A year earlier, Marsh was charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault, after a teenager said Marsh threatened him with a hammer and locked him in a chicken coop.
Those charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)