Friday, April 27, 2001

Rivals square off over teens' stunt

Legal foes in case also political opponents

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — The legal battle brewing over the videotaped injury of an Independence teen offers a political twist for Kenton County voters.

        The lawyers at the forefront of the case — prosecutor Garry Edmondson and defense attorney Eric Deters — are running against one another in next year's primary for Kenton County attorney.

        They are on opposite sides in the case possibly inspired by the MTV show Jackass, in which a host partakes in outrageous and dangerous stunts.

        What has already been a bitter political campaign appeared to be heading for an even nastier turn for Mr. Edmondson — the incumbent Kenton County attorney — and Mr. Deters.

        But not for long. Kenton District Judge Martin Sheehan says he will issue a gag order this morning, prohibiting participants in the case from speaking publicly about it.

        For weeks in Northern Kentucky the two candidates and their political camps have traded barbs in an election that won't be held for nearly 13 months.

        Each accuses the other of playing politics with the Jackass incident, in which an Independence teen suffered broken bones when he was struck by a car driven by friends. Another teen's videotape of the accident made national news, awakening adults to the existence of a show that teen boys have loved for nearly two years.

        Mr. Deters is representing the injured teen — “a good kid,” he said in an MSNBC interview — who could face criminal charges filed by Mr. Edmondson's office. The two teens who were in the car have been charged with felonies by Independence police.

        “This is totally overzealous prosecution that is not being done in the interest of justice but in the interest of Garry Edmondson,” Mr. Deters said Thursday.

        “His grandstanding is irresponsible,” he said. “When I'm county attorney I'll be playing things cool like (former Hamilton County Prosecutor) Joe Deters and not grandstand a case like this.”

        Joe and Eric Deters are distant cousins. Joe Deters, now the Ohio state treasurer, was the main speaker at a political fund-raiser Eric Deters held in the fall of 1999.

        Mr. Edmondson said he is just doing his job and it is Mr. Deters who is trying to use the case for political gain.

        “What do you think?” Mr. Edmondson responded when asked if he believes Mr. Deters took the case for political expediency.

        “The police charge people; it's my responsibility to prosecute them,” Mr. Edmondson said. “The police released the tape, which was what started all this national attention.”

        Police released the tape after media requests.

        “I didn't call the media. I've just responded to requests for interviews, and that's all I've done,” he said.

        Mr. Edmondson has appeared national news and talk shows, including on MSNBC, Fox News and NBC.

        He told a host on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor he was considering bringing charges against the injured 16-year-old.

        Mr. Deters has also been highly visible, holding a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the case. Mr. Edmondson held a press conference earlier in the week to announce the charges against two of the teens.

        Mr. Deters said that while the circumstances are unfortunate, he is looking forward to going up against Mr. Edmondson in a legal case.

        “My dad said when you get in a fight with a skunk, you're going to get some stinky on you,” he said. “Well, I'm ready to get some stinky on me.”

        Mr. Edmondson said he has no interest in turning the case into a political contest with Mr. Deters. But he did question Mr. Deters' involvement.

        “I guess (Mr. Deters) sees nothing wrong with marketing these kinds of shows to impressionable youths so they can potentially get hurt,” Mr. Edmondson said.

        Appearing Thursday morning on MSNBC, Mr. Deters said his client is a “good kid” who made a “foolish” mistake.

        “(The family) is very upset that this is being portrayed as a Jackass imitation,” Mr. Deters said. “My clients maintain that this had nothing to do with this show.”


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