"I then understood, and still understand, Mr. Gaujot's comments to have been a threat of future retaliation," Gwynne says in a sworn statement.
Gwynne also says Gaujot has or had other personal or professional relationships with other people employed by West Virginia Radio Corp., WVU and others involved in the lawsuit.
In a letter addressed to Benjamin dated July 19, Gaujot disputes Gwynne's claims about making a threat. He agrees Gwynne and his wife did not attend the party because the other person was invited but says he has no recollection of every saying any comment about paybacks. Gaujot and Gwynne stopped having social interactions because Gwynne divorced his first wife, with whom Gaujot's wife was close, Gaujot states.
Gaujot said he had considered Gwynne a friend and was "shocked" to learn of Gwynne's questioning of his impartiality.
"Furthermore, I can only hope that I would not be perceived as the type of individual who would harbor a grudge for nearly two decades over an invitation to a neighborhood July Fourth party, let alone threaten retribution as a result of it," Gaujot states in the letter.
"It is neither in my nature nor my character to behave in such a manner."
All that being said, Gaujot goes on to say he had considered recusing himself because of extensive prior social relationships with parties involved in the case.
He says he has had "limited social contact" with members of the WVU board of governors including Payne, officers of the West Virginia Foundation, Clements, Luck and Cary. He also states that he attended WVU.
Gaujot characterizes the interactions as "de minimus," a Latin phrase meaning minimal in nature. He says he would have disclosed all of the relationships to all parties involved. In reading about the case in The Dominion Post, he said, "my relationships with nearly all of the parties could potentially cause a problem requiring disqualification . . . under Rule 17.02, Voluntary Recusal by a Judge."
Gaujot states he would have no problem being impartial but submits it is up to the Supreme Court to decide.
In his order, Benjamin also suggests moving the lawsuit to the state's Business Court Division. Benjamin writes the issues may be more appropriate for that court and encouraged both parties and the judge to consider moving the case.
Gwynne did not respond to an email request for comment.