By Michael Gougis
After an argument turned into a physical altercation at his California ranch, three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Kenny Leroy Roberts,
age 64, has sought legal protection from his son, three-time AMA Pro Road
Racing Champion Kurtis Roberts, age 37, according to court documents.
The elder Roberts suffered a heart attack August 14th
while traveling and had surgery in Eugene, Oregon on August 15th,
with doctors installing a stent to open a partially blocked artery. Now, two
weeks after the surgery, Roberts is scheduled to face off against son Kurtis in
a California courtroom in a domestic violence case today, August 29th.
In a court filing on August 5 in The Superior Court of
California, County of Stanislaus, Kenny Roberts (identified in court documents
at Roberts Sr.) alleged that Kurtis Roberts "has harassed and threatened me
numerous times over the past year. The conduct continued to escalate until the
harassment became physical. In or about the week of June 20, 2016, the last
time I entered my property, ... (Kurtis) assaulted me, choked me and threatened
In a telephone interview after he contacted Roadracing World to talk about the case, Kurtis
Roberts said that it was his father who struck him and that he warned his
father to stop assaulting him during an incident in May at his father's ranch. At
the time, Kurtis Roberts was living at the ranch with his wife and young
children, in a building separate from the main residence, and was involved with
his father in an almond orchard project on the property, he said.
Kurtis Roberts disputed statements in the court filing,
saying that he was not physically near Roberts Sr. in June. "I haven't
seen my father since May,” Kurtis Roberts said. “That was when he told me that
I was no longer partner in the orchard thing that I had been working for and
doing everything with and learning everything about--because he needed $200,000
a year to live. And so tough s---. We got into an argument. He threatened to
kick my ass. He then pushed me with his chest and hit me in the chest. And I
grabbed him and said, ‘Dude, I'm bigger than you. You don't want to do this. If
you start this, I'm going to end it. And I'm going to end it badly because of
all of the s--- you've done to me my whole life. Knock this s--- off."
The court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the
case, according to Stephanie Mitchell, Courtroom Services Manager for the
Stanislaus court. The TRO sought by Roberts Sr. asked the court to order Kurtis
Roberts to vacate the property and to stay 100 yards away from Roberts Sr., his
home, his vehicle and his workplace. The next hearing on the case was set for today,
August 29, according to court records.
The latest dispute between Roberts Sr. and Kurtis Roberts
centered on an almond orchard project that the two worked on establishing at
Roberts Sr.'s 166-acre property in Hickman, California. The property, which was
put up for sale in 2010, is still owned by Roberts Sr., court records indicate.
But the almond orchard project may have substantially increased the ranch's value in the meantime.
Kurtis Roberts said that earlier this year, he called local
agricultural officials to report the illegal spraying of pesticides by contractors on the
Roberts property, within 20 feet of where his children lived. That incident apparently
sparked a confrontation between Kurtis Roberts and Kenny Roberts Sr.
Roberts Sr.'s attorney, Tyler Kelly, did not return two
phone calls seeking comment on the case.
In the court filings, Roberts Sr. alleges that Kurtis
Roberts threatened to destroy memorabilia from Roberts Sr.'s racing career and
threatened employees at the ranch, and that Roberts Sr. is afraid. "I have
been unable to enter my property for fear of my life," Roberts Sr. said in
the court filings.
Kurtis Roberts told Roadracing World that he, his wife and
two children no longer live at the ranch and have had no further contact with
Roberts Sr. Kurtis Roberts said that the business disputes between him and his
father go back for years, and that he is still waiting for back pay from his
"I have no relationship with my father," Kurtis
Roberts says. "On June 22, he actually texted my wife back, since my wife
had invited him to his newborn grandson's baptism. And he replied that ‘Since
my son is going to sue me, I don't think that it's a good thing that we see
each other or are near each other.’ When he told me (in May) that I was no
longer a partner (in the almond project), that's when I said, ‘Fine, I'll sue
you,’ and that's when he threatened to kick my ass." Kurtis Roberts added that he has not filed suit against his father.
Roberts Sr. won the 500cc Grand Prix World Championship in
1978, 1979 and 1980 and later became a World Championship-winning team owner
with rider Wayne Rainey. Meanwhile, Kurtis Roberts won the AMA Pro Formula
Xtreme Championship in 1999 and 2000, and the AMA Pro 600cc Supersport
Championship in 2000.
In a phone call to Roadracing World last Friday night, Kenny Roberts Jr. (the 2000 500cc
Grand Prix World Champion) declined to comment in detail on the record,
but broadly defended his father and blamed the dispute on his brother Kurtis.
Kenny Roberts Jr. said that his father had gone out of his way to help Kurtis resolve
financial problems, including allowing him to live rent free at the ranch prior
to the dispute; Roberts Jr. said that Roberts Sr. declined to file felony charges following the dispute, because “he didn’t want to ruin Kurtis’ life,” and that Roberts Sr. was resting and unable to come to the phone, but might be available today.
View court documents here: