Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Candidate sues over rumor

Deters says foe's aide spread lie about dead wife

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT WRIGHT — An already contentious GOP primary for Kenton County attorney took a deeply person al twist Monday night amid lurid allegations involving the deceased wife of one of the candidates.

        Eric Deters, his voice cracking with anger and sorrow while tears filled his eyes, told stunned members of the Kenton County Republican Executive Committee that he has filed suit to stop a “whisper campaign” against him involving the 1998 death of his wife, Lisa.

        Mr. Deters, an Independence lawyer, said he has filed a slander lawsuit against John Middleton of Edgewood, a lawyer who works as an assistant for incumbent Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson.

        Mr. Deters and Mr. Edmondson, who switched

        parties from Democrat to Republican last month, are running in the 2002 GOP county attorney primary.

        In a suit filed Monday in Kenton Circuit Court, Mr. Deters is accusing Mr. Middleton of spreading a rumor that Mrs. Deters, who died of lung cancer, actually died because of a sexually transmitted disease.

        Further, Mr. Deters claims Mr. Middleton made the comment at a Feb. 15 prayer breakfast in Fort Mitchell. The lawsuit includes an affidavit from Independence Councilman Jim Kudera, the chairman of the board of the Independence Christian Church.

        Mr. Kudera was at the prayer breakfast and said he heard Mr. Middleton make the statement about Mr. Deters' wife.

        “I've heard things like this,” Mr. Deters said during Monday's GOP meeting. “They are all untrue. And I'm not going to take it.”

        A few people gasped as Mr. Deters spoke. Others sat with their eyes fixed on the candidate, a self-described “free spirit who is no saint.” He immediately left party headquarters after speaking for about five minutes.

        Even before Mr. Deters finished talking, Todd McMurtry, a lawyer and executive committee member, advised Mr. Middleton not to talk to reporters about the suit.

        Mr. Middleton took the advice and refused to make a comment.

        In a press release that Deters campaign chairman Hayes Roberston passed out at the meeting, Mr. Deters accuses Mr. Edmondson of condoning Mr. Middleton's actions.

        “The whisper poison campaign from Garry Edmondson is originating some of the most spectacular, outrageous lies imaginable,” Mr. Deters said.

        Mr. Edmondson briefly spoke at the meeting and denied any involvement.

        “I have not and will not involve myself in (Mr. Deters') family and personal issues,” Mr. Edmondson said. “I'm going to talk about my campaign ... and I'm not going to get involved in anything else.”

        The primary is already shaping up to be a hard-fought battle. Mr. Deters announced his candidacy more than a year ago. He has raised about $40,000 and has hired a full-time campaign manager and a pollster based in the Washington area.

        Mr. Edmondson, meanwhile, has worked behind the scenes in putting together a campaign team of aggressive young Republicans, including several who work in his county and private law offices.

        Just before the meeting ended, party chairman Greg Shumate pleaded for a civil primary campaign.

        “Don't forget we're all Republicans and we're all going to be on the same side after a hard-fought primary,” Mr. Shumate said. “We're all in this ... and we can't let things like this tear us apart.”


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