A judge has decided that the attorney and the caretaker for Robert Indiana should not be held responsible for the deletion of hundreds of the late artist’s emails.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, the lawyer for the Morgan Art Foundation asked the judge in the lawsuit involving the Indiana estate to sanction the artist’s former caretaker and attorney for his estate –“up to and including the entry of a default judgment against both” – accusing them of destroying or allowing the destruction of hundreds of emails from Indiana’s computer that should have been preserved and offered as discovery in the case.

This week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses denied the motion, handing Indiana’s personal representative, James Brannan, a victory in an ongoing federal lawsuit with the Morgan Art Foundation. Brannan, of Rockland, who has been accused of running up legal bills, said Moses’ decision to deny the motion proves that Morgan has been as responsible for the costly litigation.

“I said back in January that this sanctions motion was like a Hail Mary pass with no receivers in the end zone. Morgan made a lot of sensational accusations, but couldn’t back them up. This pointless sideshow wasted time and made the litigation more expensive for everyone,” Brannan said in a statement Thursday.

A for-profit company, Morgan owns the rights to much of Indiana’s artwork, and sued the artist in May 2018 for breaching their contracts. The estate countersued, charging that Morgan and its arts consultant, Simon Salama-Caro, underpaid Indiana and breached the agreements in other ways.

Brannan said the Morgan motion was meant to distract from his claims. “It is just one more example of the tactics that Morgan and its lawyers have used to distract attention from the heart of this case: Morgan’s and Simon Salama-Caro’s breaches of the contractual and fiduciary duties they owed to Robert Indiana. In the end … I remain committed to carrying out Bob’s testamentary wishes,” he said.

In a statement, Morgan attorney Luke Nikas said the judge’s decision was moot because of an agreement announced last week between Morgan and the Star of Hope Foundation, the Maine-based nonprofit that will manage Indiana’s art and museum, and said the decision to deny sanctions did not disprove Morgan’s claims that Indiana’s caretaker, Jamie Thomas, deleted emails and Brannan was complicit with his lack of oversight.

“The forensic report found that the documents were deleted, and it is clear from that report and the facts who did it and why. The Court’s reluctance to sanction the people responsible is unfortunate, but in the end, the decision is completely irrelevant because we’ve already moved to dismiss the case based on a binding agreement between the Star of Hope and Morgan Art Foundation,” he said. “Nor is it relevant to the misconduct we’ve alleged against James Brannan and the Estate. When both the Maine Attorney General and Robert Indiana’s foundation have publicly supported the dismissal of the Estate’s case, that should tell you everything you need to know about the Estate’s conduct.”

Indiana died at his home on Vinalhaven in May 2018, soon after the original lawsuit was filed.

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