If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I get all agitated whenever somebody from somewhere else dumps a whole lot of money into a North Dakota political campaign. I just can’t stand not knowing who those people are and why they want to spend a bunch of money in North Dakota.
So I got curious Wednesday when I read the headline on Mike Nowatzki’s Forum News Service story that said, “California man donates $1M to N.D. Marsy’s Law supporters; 44,000 signatures submitted to get measure on ballot.”
Huh? Why would someone send a million dollars to North Dakota to finance a ballot measure campaign? Who was he? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, Marsy’s Law.
The Marsy’s Law North Dakota ballot initiative is the brainchild of Kathleen Wrigley, wife of North Dakota’s lieutenant governor, Drew Wrigley. It’s an attempt to put a victim’s rights provision in the North Dakota Constitution.
Kathleen Wrigley’s interest stems from the fact a court in Pennsylvania refuses to execute the man who killed her brother, a rookie policeman who was shot making a traffic stop. She and her family want the man put to death. A judge has ruled he is intellectually incompetent, so he cannot be executed but will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Following the judge’s ruling last year, Kathleen Wrigley told The Forum “It’s the end of the road, for sure. There’s not one more thing we can do as a victim’s family.”
Wrigley’s plight caught the attention of the California fellow, Henry Nicholas, a computer industry billionaire who shares a fate similar to Kathleen Wrigley — his sister was stalked and killed by her boyfriend, leading Nicholas to fund a ballot initiative in California called “Marsy’s Law,” which put a victim’s rights provision in the California Constitution. He sent Kathleen a million dollars — so far — to do something similar in North Dakota.
Pretty much the entire legal community in North Dakota has pooh-poohed the idea, saying it is not necessary to put things in the Constitution that already are covered in state laws. And that there are no problems with a victim’s rights in North Dakota.
Well, Kathleen Wrigley spent some of the money to hire 30 paid signature gatherers, and they turned in enough signatures Wednesday to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall. I signed it. I’ll sign any petition to put something on the ballot for North Dakotans to vote for or against. My signature gatherer was an obvious meth freak, talking to herself in the parking lot of Cash Wise Foods in Bismarck one chilly Spring morning. Cheerful, though.
So who’s this guy Henry Nicholas, who’s signing her paycheck? Well, he’s pretty famous in California. He’s 56 years old, and he is ranked No. 236 on Forbes list of the richest people in America. He founded the computer chip-making company Broadcom, from which he is now retired, with a net worth of a couple of billion dollars. But he has a deep, dark past.
According to published reports in various West Coast publications:
- Nicholas hired prostitutes for himself and his customers.
- Nicholas used cocaine, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, prescription painkillers and more.
- Nicholas spiked the drinks of fellow businesspeople without their knowledge.
- Nicholas built a “lair” underneath his home that allowed him to escape his wife and children to immerse himself in a nonstop party featuring cocaine, Ecstasy, Viagra, speed, prostitutes and assorted hangers-on.
Nicholas most recently made news in January of this year when his girlfriend, a 40-something named Melissa Montero, filed a $70 million lawsuit against him, alleging he abused her emotionally and physically and then broke a promise to take care of her financially for life. The case is in its early stages. It should be an interesting one. Melissa (interesting coincidence, eh?) had been with him from 2010 until last fall, when she moved out, fearing for her safety. Nicholas cut off her $25,000 monthly allowance. That prompted her lawsuit.
Montero entered the scene after Nicholas’ divorce from his first wife, Stacey Nicholas, after a stormy relationship in the marriage’s last few years. In 2001, according to a story in the OC Weekly, a Southern California newspaper, Stacey “found her husband at the warehouse high on drugs and having sex with a prostitute, according to court documents and Nicholas’ own admission (that follows).”
“A few days later, in an 1,800-word email to Stacey, Henry admitted, “It was 3:00 a.m. I was exhausted, depressed, suffering from Ecstasy come-down, and at the end of my capacity to rationally think. I did mention that you saw me with another woman in ‘bed’ and that I had spent a solid week abusing drugs after my Easter ‘all-nighter’ to prepare for a huge acquisition.”
He expanded on the dread he’d felt at Beaver Creek.
“During my call I was experiencing ‘panic attacks’ and my hands were shaking.”
It only got worse.
“I had left the ‘Easter torture session’ in Beaver Creek and was immediately subjected to 40 different disasters at once,” he writes. “I have never had so many things converge at once, and never after such a physically and emotionally debilitating one as the 26-hour Easter Day Ericsson/Mobilink call. During that week, I got only a few hours of sleep and sustained myself by alternating huge quantities of caffeine and ephedrine. I also alternated smaller amounts of coke and crystal (methamphetamine).”
In October 2002, Stacey Nicholas filed for divorce after 15 years of marriage.
The stories about Nicholas’ underground sex and drug lair, the multimillion dollar man-cave of all man-caves, are all over the Internet, like this one in The Los Angeles Times, for example, which reported on an indictment on drug charges filed against Nicholas in 2010 (which were later dismissed — billionaires don’t go to the pokey for “minor felonies” like cocaine possession or prostitution):
“Nicholas had his private jet pick up prostitutes in New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles ‘and bring them back to the Pond for his rock star friends,’ the draft complaint said. ‘He provided his guests with transportation and cocaine, Ecstasy, methamphetamines, marijuana, mushrooms and nitrous oxide (laughing gas)’ — and even arranged for his private helicopter to land at a nearby hospital helipad, it said.” There are a couple more juicy ones, here and here.
The indictment against Nicholas detailed cocaine binges, and former colleagues claimed that Nicholas had tunnels built under his Southern California mansion to access drugs and prostitutes.
Nicholas was under indictment when Montero met him, and wearing an ankle bracelet, according to the suit. But her lawyer said she did not delve deeply into his legal troubles.
“When you fall in love with someone, you don’t really do ‘due diligence’ on them,” Greenberg said. “That makes it seem almost like a merger agreement.”
These days, Nicholas lives at his Newport Beach, Calif., estate and does philanthropy. He’s been through Betty Ford’s rehab clinics. He gives millions to educational and other charitable causes. And he meddles in politics in places like North Dakota.
And he’s the fellow financing Kathleen Wrigley’s constitutional amendment, which almost any lawyer and some retired judges in the state, including Tom Davies, who served as Fargo’s municipal judge for 40 years, will tell you is a really bad idea. Tom wrote about it in a blog post at unheralded.fish, and quotes a well-respected attorney, Mark Friese of the Vogel Law Firm:
“This proposal is an initiated measure which claims in this State to advance victims’ rights. Wrong. In our State, it would create irreconcilable conflict with existing laws and procedures and have dire consequences,” Friese said.
Still, I suppose things could be worse — Nicholas could be running for president of the United States.
UPDATE: The Forum’s Mike Nowatzki reported Wednesday night the backers of Marsy’s Law efforts in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana have already spent $1.6 million of Nicholas’ money. Read the story here.