Battle continues between Trageser and county officials

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By Phyllis McLaughlin, Special to The Spencer Magnet

Attorneys for Taylorsville resident Lawrence Trageser have filed a counterclaim against Spencer County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jonathan Bentley in Circuit Court.
The countersuit, filed May 1, also names Detective Tony Mattingly and other “unknown” defendants, including employees of the sheriff’s office, the deputies’ supervisors and any co-conspirators involved in the October arrest of Trageser and the subsequent confiscation of property from his home.
The 12-page document outlines in detail allegations that Bentley, Mattingly and others obstructed Trageser’s 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution when they arrested him on charges of unlawfully accessing the county’s computer system on Oct. 10 (a Class D felony that was later reduced to “attempted unlawful access,” a misdemeanor) and subsequently arrested him on charges of harassment on Oct. 15.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from both known and as-yet unknown parties, and also asks the court to dismiss a civil suit lodged against Trageser in March by Deputy Bentley and order Bentley to pay Trageser’s court and legal costs.
In that suit, Bentley alleges Trageser published defamatory statements and also published private information about Bentley on his website, the Spencer County Watchdog. Bentley is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus court costs.
In other documents filed the same day as the counterclaim, Trageser denies all of the charges set forth by Bentley and, though he admits to publishing Bentley’s Social Security number online, states that he did so by posting a public record on the website that is “readily available for inspection by everyone in the world.”
The counterclaim further states that Trageser is innocent of the charges brought against him last fall and alleges that Bentley and Mattingly arrested him “without a reasonable basis and/or a sufficient legal basis and/or probable cause,” and did so “with an ulterior purpose” to prevent, restrain or interfere with the publication of the political blog Trageser posts on his website.
He further claims wrongful arrest, unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure and deprivation of his freedom while detained at the Shelby County Detention Center.
Trageser also accuses the “Unknown Supervisors” of failing to “employ qualified persons for positions of authority and/or to properly train and supervise the conduct” to uphold and protect Trageser’s constitutional, statutory and common law rights.
Trageser claims that all of this was done to “prevent, restrain and/or interfere with publication of his political blog.”
Additionally, Trageser’s attorney William Stewart of Shelbyville filed a “Motion for More Definite Statement” regarding a second civil suit filed against his client on April 23 by three Spencer County officials: Judge-Executive Bill Karrer, County Sheriff Buddy Stump and County Attorney Ruth Ann Hollan.
The allegations against his client by the three officials are the same as those in Bentley’s suit, Stewart said the document does not provide any details about how, when or where Trageser allegedly made defamatory statements against the plaintiffs, nor does it provide details of any harassment claims made by the plaintiffs.
Once those details are submitted to court, Stewart said his next step is to file a counterclaim against Karrer, Stump and Hollan – similar to the counterclaim filed against Bentley and Mattingly.
He also will file a motion to consolidate the two suits.
In the end, Stewart said he is confident that the court will rule in favor of his client.
“I think we’re going to find everything [Trageser] said is factual and true,” Stewart said, adding that any claims his client has made against the defendants are well documented.
Further, “almost everything he says is either an opinion or the truth, and all of it is protected by the 1st Amendment.”
Stewart also is anxious to get the harassment case against his client into the courtroom. “The minute we get a new prosecutor, we will be requesting new trial dates.”
In April, Hollan recused herself as prosecutor in the harassment case; Circuit Court Judge Linda Armstrong also recused herself, citing the potential for an appearance of conflict of interest in the case.
Stewart said Special Judge Matthew Eckert has been assigned to hear the case, but the state attorney general’s office has not yet appointed a special prosecutor.