Kentucky judge reopens millionaire’s lawsuit over antique guns

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A millionaire’s claim that an Alabama gun collector cheated him by marking up prices on world-class antique firearms is back in federal court in Kentucky.

Liquor scion Owsley Brown Frazier befriended collector Michael K. Salisbury in the late 1990s and asked him to find antique firearms for a museum Frazier planned to open.

But Frazier – and prosecutors who brought criminal charges against Salisbury – claim Frazier was overcharged by as much as $1.5 million for the collection, including a $65,000 markup on two of Gen. George Custer’s Colt six-shooters.

Frazier sued Salisbury in 2004, but that case was on hold while federal prosecutors pursued criminal charges. U.S. District Judge John Heyburn placed the lawsuit back on the court docket last week at the request of Salisbury’s attorney, Gregg Hovious, who said he wants it dismissed.

Salisbury, of Owens Crossroads, Ala., was acquitted of felony fraud and money laundering charges at his criminal trial in July.

He has argued in court records that Frazier wanted to pay him secret commissions for acquiring the guns, but then turned on him “when it came time to account to the IRS for his and the museum’s tax treatment of his collection.”

Frazier’s attorney, Edward Stopher of Louisville, said he could not comment since the lawsuit is pending. It seeks unspecified damages.

Salisbury’s wife, Karen Salisbury, and gun historian R.L. Wilson of San Francisco were also cleared of felony charges at the July trial, but Michael Salisbury was convicted on two misdemeanor charges of failing to pay taxes and sentenced to two years in prison.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October granted Salisbury’s request that he be allowed to stay out of prison during his appeal of those convictions.

“That’s pretty good news for him all around,” Hovious said.

Frazier’s museum, known as the Frazier International History Museum in downtown Louisville and still houses a high-profile gun collection. Frazier is the great-grandson of the founder of Louisville-based liquor giant Brown-Forman Corp., which sells Jack Daniels whiskey.

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