Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz denies an allegation he paid an underage ballerina at least $75,000 for "sexual favors," a claim made in a civil action filed by two noted ballet figures who are themselves being sued for alleged sexual misconduct.
It's the latest accusation in an ongoing legal fight involving former Boston Ballet dancer Sage Humphries, who last year filed a federal civil lawsuit against dance instructor Mitchell Taylor Button and former Boston Ballet principal dancer Dusty Button, Button’s wife.
Humphries claimed in her lawsuit that the Buttons took an interest in her as a young dancer before they both sexually assaulted her.
Earlier this month, lawyers for the Buttons filed a counterclaim denying those allegations, but said Humphries was victimized — just not by their clients.
"To the extent that Sage Humphries claims she was abused and sex trafficked, the Buttons agree — however, this abuse and trafficking was not at their hands, but at the hands of a series of older men," the Buttons’ attorney, Marc Randazza, wrote in the counterclaim.
"If Sage is truly the damaged flower she claims to be, the price should be paid — but it should be paid by those who actually engaged in illegal acts with her."
Randazza said Katz "paid Sage at least $75,000.00 for her sexual favors while she remained underage."
"Humphries was literally a child prostitute to a billionaire, and her mother assisted her in laundering the money she was paid and in trafficking her to Katz," according to Randazza.
Robert Klieger, a Los Angeles-based attorney for Katz, pushed back on the Buttons' claim in a lengthy statement to NBC News on Thursday.
“Daryl Katz denies the allegations against him by Mitchell Taylor Button and Dusty Button without reservation. There has never been a sexual relationship of any kind between Mr. Katz and Ms. Humphries," according to Klieger.
"Critically, the allegations against Mr. Katz are not being made by Ms. Humphries," Klieger said. "The accusations are instead being made by the Buttons, who Ms. Humphries and six other women have accused of exploiting their position of power and influence in the dance world to sexually abuse young dancers across the country."
"Mr. Katz has never met the Buttons, and their false accusations against him are a transparent and pathetic attempt to distract attention from the abhorrent acts with which they stand charged."
In their counterclaim, the Buttons included images of text messages, purportedly between Katz and Humphries, with the Oilers owner setting up a UBS account in her name and depositing $75,000.
"You're perfect Sage. That's what scares me," Katz allegedly wrote.
While nothing in the exhibit mentions sex, the message appears to show Katz asking for secrecy: "And just between us? Even though u r wise beyond your years given our respective ages it would be taken the wrong way."
Humphries allegedly answered: "Yes .. Just between us."
When reached via email by NBC News on Thursday, Randazza declined to comment.
There was no time stamp on the alleged text messages, but the counterclaim said Katz, now 61, was 53 at the time at the time of the digital chat.
Humphries turns 24 later this year and could have been under the age of consent in many American states eight years ago.
Klieger, Katz's lawyer, tried to cast doubt on the text messages.
"With respect to the texts, we have been unable to verify the authenticity of the texts, and they have obviously been presented in a manner that would be remarkably easy to doctor," according to Klieger.
Humphries' attorney, Sigrid McCawley, categorically rejected the Buttons' allegations that her client had sex with Katz.
"Sage had a business relationship with Mr. Katz and there was never any sexual relationship between them," McCawley told NBC News on Thursday.
The attorney said her client and Katz had been discussing movie projects and that the dancer might have received money from the NHL executive in connection to that proposed business deal.
But McCawley on Thursday declined to address the legitimacy of those purported text messages: “I can’t say whether they’re legitimate at this point.”
In a written statement, McCawley characterized the Buttons' claims as desperation.
“As is typical of abusers facing serious litigation, with four walls of facts closing in, the Buttons have filed counterclaims that distract from and distort the truth," according to McCawley.
"Abusers often try to weaponize the allegations brought against them, and that’s exactly what is happening here. The counterclaims the Buttons have filed falsely and recklessly implicate others, including Daryl Katz, and are a factually unfounded attempt to portray the women they abused as liars."