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Lawsuit between Trageser and two sheriff’s department employees will stay in state court

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By Shannon Brock

The civil case between Taylorsville resident Lawrence Trageser and two high-ranking Spencer County Sheriff’s Department employees will be heard in state-level circuit court, despite an effort to move the matter into federal court.

Attorneys were notified of Judge Thomas B. Russell’s decision to remand the case to Spencer Circuit Court last Wednesday.
On Feb. 28, Spencer County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jonathan Bentley filed a civil lawsuit against Lawrence S. Trageser, 48, of Elmers Court seeking compensatory and punitive damages for causing “emotional distress and loss of his reputation” on several counts, which include publishing derogatory statements about Bentley on a website, alleged harassment and false accusations of misconduct, and publishing Bentley’s Social Security number and other personal information online.
On May 1, Trageser’s attorneys, William Stewart and Sam Carl, filed a counterclaim against Bentley that also named Detective Tony Mattingly. The countersuit 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.
Those charges were subsequently dismissed in Spencer District Court.
According to background information included in Russell’s opinion and order, when Bentley was served with the counterclaim, because the allegations against him related to his employment with the sheriff’s department, he turned the claim over to the Sheriff’s Department, who notified its insurance agency. The insurance agency retained separate counsel to represent Bentley and Mattingly as counterclaim defendants.
In September, those attorneys, Robert T. Watson and Chris J. Gadansky of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland in Louisville, filed to remove the case from circuit court and have it go through the federal court system.
Trageser’s attorneys filed a motion in federal court to have the case remanded to circuit court and found out Wednesday that their motion was granted. Trageser’s attorneys also sought an award for attorneys fees, but that part of the motion was denied.
The case will be handed back to circuit court, although it will not be heard by Judge Charles Hickman who recused himself from the case in July. The case has been assigned to Judge McKay Chauvin of Jefferson County.
“This is what we wanted,” Stewart said Wednesday.
Messages left for attorney Robert Watson were not returned as of press time.

Trageser files counterclaim against Karrer, Stump, Hollan
Trageser’s attorneys filed in October a counterclaim, claiming Judge-Executive Bill Karrer, County Attorney Ruth Hollan and Sheriff Donald “Buddy” Stump abused their power and violated his constitutional rights.
The countersuit alleges wrongful arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false imprisonment, failure to properly train and supervise, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, violation of constitutional rights, conspiracy, common-law conspiracy, abuse of public office and seeks punitive damages.
Karrer, Hollan and Stump filed a joint civil suit against Trageser in April.
In the suit, Karrer, Hollan and Stump claim that Trageser, who operates the Spencer County Watchdog blog online, made statements “alleging that the plaintiffs have engaged in criminal activity, corruption, fraud, theft, vote buying, lying, dereliction of official duties, and violations of civil rights, among other things.”
Further, they claim Trageser knew his statements would “tend to harm [the plaintiffs’] reputations, and/or lower the estimation of them in the community, and/or deter third persons from associating or dealing with them.”
Karrer, Hollan and Stump did not file the suit in their official capacities, but as individuals.
After Trageser’s counterclaim was filed, Karrer, Hollan and Stump’s personal attorney, C. Thomas Hectus replied, denying the above referenced allegations.
After Hectus’ response was filed, Watson and Gadansky — the same attorneys who represent Bentley and Mattingly as counterclaim defendants — were briefly entered as attorneys of record.
However, attorney Keith Bond of Elizabethtown was recently named as substitution counsel. A message left for Bond was not immediately returned.
Spencer Circuit Judge Charles Hickman also recused himself from this case, and it was also assigned to Judge McKay Chauvin of Jefferson County.