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William Koch, billionaire, accused of kidnapping in weird suit from ex-employee

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Koch made a big splash in the memorabilia market back in June 2011, when he purchased the only known photo of Billy the Kid at a Denver auction for an astonishing $2 million. Our Alan Prendergast provided this info about its background, and that of its current owner:
Billy paid about two bits to have his picture taken outside a saloon in Fort Sumner around 1879, when he was twenty and already calling himself a "Regulator" in the bloody Lincoln County War. Researchers say there were four tintypes originally, but only one survives, handed down from generation to generation by descendants of the friend Billy gave it to.

How fitting, then, that one of the most famous photos to emerge from the West's wildest days should end up (after a billion percent markup in value) in the well-manicured hands of Koch, one of the heirs to a vast financial empire based on oil refining and extraction industries, the kind of activities that tamed (and, yes, tainted) the West at last. Koch describes himself as "retired" -- he sold out his interest in Koch Industries years ago, and it's his siblings, Charles and David, who get all the press for funding conservative causes and drawing protesters. But he still has his hobbies.

Indeed he does. A couple of months after his Billy the Kid investment, he picked up all of Bucksin Joe, a town outside Canon City. Here's some history on the property shared by Patricia Calhoun in the post linked above:
Back in 1957, boosters -- including Karol Smith, who later founded the Colorado Film Commission, the first state film commission in the country -- bought the remains of the original Buckskin Joe, an early gold camp two miles outside of Alma, and reassembled them, along with two dozen other buildings from old ghost towns, at the edge of the Royal Gorge as a set for Western movies. The movies filmed there ranged from the first True Grit, starring John Wayne, to the truly dreadful The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, starring Goldie Hawn and George Segal.

Almost a century before, the original Buckskin Joe had seen its own share of stars. Horace and Augusta Tabor had run a store and the post office there before moving on to Leadville, where Horace amassed a huge fortune and dumped Augusta. Silver Heels, the prostitute with the heart of gold, had reportedly nursed minors through an outbreak of smallpox there in 1862, then disappeared into legend. And although some of the town's more civilized residents had tried to name the place Laurette, it could never shake the Buckskin Joe moniker inspired by Joseph Higgenbottom, the buckskin-wearing prospector who found gold in the area in 1859.

What's the Buckskin Joe connection to the lawsuit?

Continue for more of our story about the lawsuit against William Koch, including a video.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts