Coursey attorney seeks sanction over 'smut' depositions

09/10/2014 02:46 PM

FRANKFORT — An attorney for Rep. Will Coursey has asked a judge to sanction the lawyer representing a Legislative Research Commission staffer suing Coursey for retaliation after releasing “the smut” contained in the Symsonia Democrat’s depositions earlier this year.

William Johnson, a Frankfort attorney representing Coursey, said in a motion filed in Franklin Circuit Court that Thomas Clay, a Louisville attorney representing legislative secretary Nicole Cusic, asked Coursey “embarrassing and non-relevant questions about other persons.” Coursey’s depositions later appeared on the website Page One Kentucky and included, among other things, Coursey’s description of the anatomy of a fellow Democratic legislator allegedly having an affair with Cusic.

“I wouldn’t have minded the deposition except he (Clay) asked him (Coursey) about other people in there and what he had heard about other people,” Johnson said after a court hearing Wednesday, “and particularly when he got into the question about whether (Coursey) knew that (Clay’s) client — Clay brings it out — had had an affair with a member of the General Assembly, and she said he had a pretty penis, you know, had a curve in it.

“I haven’t found out which way it curves, but possibly will.”

Johnson said such questions were meant solely to embarrass Coursey, and the deposition’s public release amplified the potential harm to his client. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate struck down the depositions in June because attorneys for former LRC Director Robert Sherman, who resigned in September following an internal investigation found LRC properly handled sexual harassment complaints brought by other staffers against former Rep. John Arnold, were not notified.

In court, Clay said he did not share the deposition with Page One Kentucky, but rather James Higdon, author of “The Cornbread Mafia,” released the recordings.

“What he did with it after that, I believe he turned it over to a media source, but I didn’t put anything on the media,” Clay said.

Clay argued that he had requested a protective order for the depositions, which would have limited testimony solely to the retaliation accusations. Clay’s lawsuit alleges Coursey had Cusic transferred from his legislative office, where she worked as a secretary, after she complained to him about “sexually harassing behavior toward interns and LRC employees.” Cusic now works as a secretary for the state Senate.

However, Clay said Coursey’s original attorney, Mark Edwards of Paducah, argued against limiting the depositions.

“Not only did Mr. Coursey’s lawyer insist that the motions for a protective order be denied, which this court did, but he also proclaimed that he was going to go into all of this stuff,” Clay said. “Now, not only did he make that proclamation in this court, but his client, Mr. Coursey, got on the media and talked about my client and about his reputation about all these other things he’s claiming foul on.”

Johnson also filed motions seeking a gag order on Clay and Cusic as well as a protective order prohibiting the dissemination of “testimony, exhibits or other documents” before court approval.

Clay said such an action would violate his First Amendment rights.

“I have a tendency to agree,” Wingate said.

Johnson also wants some of the previous depositions allowed, which Sherman’s attorneys argued against since they weren’t involved in that process.

“This would put us, judge, at a real fundamental disadvantage in Mr. Sherman’s standpoint,” said London attorney William Crabtree. “We weren’t there.”

Wingate said he would rule on Johnson’s motions in three to four days.

Wingate will also rule in a separate sexual harassment lawsuit against Arnold filed by Clay and legislative staffers Yolanda Costner, an advisor to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson of Owensboro, and Cassaundra Cooper, an aide to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook. The women filed similar complaints to the Legislative Ethics Commission, which found Arnold, the Sturgis Democrat who resigned in September, violated the legislative ethics code in his behavior toward them.

Clay has asked LRC to produce additional discovery in the lawsuit, while LRC attorney Leslie Vose of Lexington said in a motion “the disputed discovery is not relevant” to the case. Wingate gave each side 10 days to file briefs before rendering a decision.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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