News and Tribune

Floyd County

May 5, 2006

Cooper sues Jacobi, Vissing for defamation

Judicial nominee’s husband says he’ll ‘take every dime I can’

Embattled Clark Superior Court No. 1 Judge Jerome F. Jacobi took another hit late Monday afternoon when the husband of his primary election opponent sued him and supporter Jack Vissing for defamation of character.

Jeffersonville attorney Lonnie Cooper claims his “personal and professional reputations have been damaged” by comments Jacobi and Vissing made against him in defense of Jerry Lemmons, Jacobi’s former chief of staff.

Cooper is the husband of Jeffersonville City Court Judge Vicki Carmichael, who beat Jacobi by nearly 1,200 votes in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary. Jacobi was elected to the bench in 1994 and again in 2000.

Cooper said he filed the suit in Clark Circuit Court at around 4:30 p.m. Monday. He said he tried to arrange the timing of the filing so that it would be almost impossible for news of the action to reach the media until after the election, something he said Carmichael insisted upon.

“It isn’t about the election,” Cooper said during a telephone interview Thursday. “I will only take so many shots to my integrity.”

A woman who answered the phone in Clark Superior Court No. 1 on Thursday said Jacobi will not return to the office until Monday.

During a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon, Vissing said he had not seen the suit but called it “incredible.”

“I always thought truth was a defense,” Vissing said.

Lemmons, who is either 71 or 81 depending on reports, resigned as Jacobi’s chief of staff Feb. 8, but is under investigation by Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco. The investigation is the result of at least two former Clark Superior Court No. 1 employees accusing Lemmons of inappropriately receiving, handling and depositing fees collected; committing theft; engaging in ghost employment; and using public funds for personal purposes.

Levco is scheduled to meet with a special grand jury May 25 to seek indictments against one or more unnamed targets.

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