When legal action was taken against Paul Kimmage by the UCI in relation to defamatory comments in 2012, the online cycling community was quick to jump to the Irish journalist's defence. Without a job after being made redundant by the Sunday Times, Kimmage was set to face mounting legal bills in a precarious financial situation if he were to fight the UCI's charges.
Within days the Kimmage Defense Fund had been set up, with a PayPal account used to house a kitty for Kimmage to dip into. Within months the goodwill for Kimmage and the angst for the UCI had seen the fund raise close to $100,000, $96,169.90 to be exact. However, several months on and the money has allegedly been withdrawn from the Fund with neither Kimmage nor Andy Shen and Lesli Cohen - the two individuals who spearheaded the movement - able to trace the money. Paul Kimmage, Shen and Cohen never had access to the funds.
On Wednesday morning Kimmage contacted Cyclingnews and explained that only part of his legal fees had been paid and that attempts to retrieve or even detect the rest of the funds had been unsuccessful.
The UCI suspended their case against Kimmage last fall in the wake of the USADA investigation against Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team. The end of the legal battle had been seen as a moral victory after the UCI had chosen to go after the journalist and not the publication his work had appeared in.
But the warm glow from that victory has long since ebbed away and roughly $64,000 is still unaccounted for.
When Cohen set up the fund she did so through a PayPal account that had been set up by Aaron Brown prior to the Fund's creation. You may know Brown as the UCI_Overlord on Twitter or as one of the voices behind the satirical website Cyclismas. Cohen and Brown were business partners in the website venture and when Brown moved to Girona to help build the growing website Cohen was happy to see the website begin to flourish.
"Lesli alerted this to me on Saturday and I've spent from Saturday until this morning trying to get a statement from Aaron detailing the defence account and the payments that were made from the account," Kimmage told Cyclingnews.
"He told me there was $64,000 in and he presented a sheet to me saying there was $64,000 in an Aaron Brown account. I said that's no good to me, I need details of where the money has been spent and where it's gone. He's not given me that.
"I said to Aaron to transfer whatever's left into a neutral account in Switzerland. He's refused to do that. He's saying he's liable for it and there's a legal battle with Lesli."
Cyclingnews contacted Brown who told us that, "we didn't realise that there would be an IRS 1099 form that meant there was a tax liability for what was in the funds. In January and February Lesli had said she couldn't deal with the liability, said I would take the liability and I would take on the responsibility and initiated that change with PayPal as I was willing to take the risk.
"Then people wanted to make it into an attack fund. Its original purpose was a defence fund. It was to defend Paul against the UCI action. It was not for him to open action against the UCI. When that lawsuit was suspended the agreement was that we would not have any more action and Paul's legal bills were paid. As it stands now the legal action is still suspended and if Paul incurs any more legal bills in defence then the fund will pay it. Once the case is over the funds should be dispensed to the donors.
"It's a big mess and I'm the guy who assumed liability on this."
Cohen told Cyclingnews that the money was no longer in the original PayPal account while Brown has stated the opposite, telling Cyclingnews that, "it is."
In a statement released by Cohen's US attorney it was made clear that "Cohen has sent a notice terminating the Cyclismas partnership with Aaron Brown and requesting an accounting for funds that Cyclismas collected for the Paul Kimmage Defense Fund.
"She has brought a court action in Massachusetts asking the Court to supervise the accounting and dissolution of the partnership. She is cooperating in all respects with Paul Kimmage and his attorneys. Other members of the Cyclismas team will carry on the Cyclismas website and fulfill obligations to sponsors and others while the Massachusetts Courts conduct the accounting. It is not appropriate to comment further because of the pending legal action. Cohen is currently taking legal action against Brown with the matter yet to be resolved and still no concrete answer as to where the funds sit."
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