A judge has dismissed two libel lawsuits filed by Kentucky candidate for governor Eric Deters against a Northern Kentucky attorney, saying they are meritless and ordering him to pay the defendant’s litigation expenses.
Deters filed the two lawsuits this summer against attorney Chris Wiest, who is representing two clients who have sued Deters claiming breach of contract.
In dismissing both of Deters’ lawsuits in separate orders Tuesday, Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe wrote that the libel lawsuits were “totally lacking in merit, both factually and legally, so as to appear to have been taken in bad faith.”
In her dismissal of Deters’ most recent libel lawsuit, filed in August, she added that “this lack of merit indicates a lack of respect for the courts.”
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In both cases, Summe ordered Deters to pay “all court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and reasonable litigation expenses” for Wiest, as well as his client and other attorneys from the first breach of contract lawsuit that were also named as defendants.
Deters responded to a request for comment with a link to a YouTube video he posted Wednesday. In it, Deters called Summe’s action “a complete bogus decision” and said he will appeal. He went on to call the judge “nasty, mean, incompetent and lazy,” as well as “corrupt” and a “dingbat.”
Wiest told The Courier Journal he is “pleased with the ruling, and we’re all equally thrilled that she’s sanctioning him for his antics.”
Deters, a former northern Kentucky attorney who had his license to practice law suspended last year, filed to run for governor as a Republican late 2021.
The disputes at issue began in June when Deters was sued for breach of contract and fraud by former business partner Kevin Harris. Deters then filed a counterclaim and a libel lawsuit against Wiest and three other attorneys representing Harris, alleging they made defamatory statements to injure Deters’ reputation.
Then in August, Wiest filed a federal lawsuit against Deters on behalf of his client and former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski, alleging Deters was in breach of their contract by not paying Lewandowski more than $36,000 owed for consulting services to his gubernatorial campaign. Lewandowski also sued him for defamation over claims Deters made about him in a YouTube video and alleged that Deters defrauded him by misrepresenting his finances.
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Deters then immediately filed both a breach of contract lawsuit against Lewandowski and his second libel lawsuit against Wiest, alleging the attorney “wrote a letter he published to a third party where he stated: ‘your trust where you hide your assets.'”
The reference to a trust goes back to a June 6 letter Deters wrote to Wiest regarding the Harris case, in which he says that even if Harris won, he “will never collect a dime” from him or the corporations named in the suit, as “ALL of my substantial wealth, and it is substantial, you will hate to know, is in a trust.”
In an Aug. 11 letter to Deters on behalf of Lewandowski indicating his client was preparing to sue him for breach of contract, Wiest wrote that “as an aside, in my opinion they should just sue you, the campaign, and your trust where you hide your assets, but Mr. Lewandowski wanted me to write this letter to give you one more chance to pay.”
This reference to hiding assets in a trust, and cc’ing another attorney on the letter, was the basis of Deters’ libel claim. However, Summe dismissed that argument, as a defamatory statement must be false and Wiest’s statement about the trust was not false — citing Deters’ own June 6 letter.
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“The word ‘hide’ is the defendant’s opinion of plaintiff’s motivation in placing ‘ALL of [his] substantial wealth’ in trust, and plaintiff’s statement that because he has done so ‘you will never collect a dime’ supports this reasonable conclusion,” Summe wrote. “Therefore the statement is not false.”
Deters is also the subject of several other pending cases, beyond the original Harris and Lewandowski lawsuits.
In October, Deters was criminally charged with menacing and harassing communications related to allegedly chasing his teenage nephew in a truck after he was flipped off near a family farm in Northern Kentucky. Deters, who said he did nothing wrong, has a hearing scheduled in February.
He also has a hearing scheduled Thursday related to his charge from last year of carrying a loaded pistol through security at the Cincinnati airport. Deters attempted pretrial diversion but, according to court documents, was unsuccessful due to never turning anything in to court officials.
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