Judge Opts out Of Schmidt- Krikorian Suit


By Barrett J. Brunsman

BATAVIA, Ohio (Cincinnati.com) — Rep. Jean Schmidt’s defamation lawsuit against David Krikorian, a political foe who allegedly said she is beholden to the Turkish government, has taken on Byzantine overtones in Clermont County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Victor M. Haddad, a Republican, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to remove him from the case, noting that he has contributed money to Schmidt and continues to support her politically.

I can be fair, (but) that’s not the issue,” Haddad said. “It’s the appearance.”

Schmidt, a Miami Township Republican, represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Clermont County and eastern Hamilton County. On October 27, visiting Judge John W. Kessler of Montgomery County, who has been assigned to take over the case, is to schedule hearings on motions by the attorneys.

Haddad said he didn’t get a chance to announce he hoped to be removed from the case until after Christopher P. Finney, one of Krikorian’s attorneys, said during a September 27 hearing that Schmidt’s attorneys shouldn’t represent her.

Finney said he intends to call as witnesses in the case Schmidt attorneys Bruce E. Fein and Donald C. Brey to question them about who is paying their legal bills.

It’s not Schmidt “but special interest groups … paying for these expensive lawyers to sit here and persecute a former political opponent of Mrs. Schmidt over protected political speech,” Finney told the judge. “She’s up to her ears in conflicts of interest and, in fact, illegal conduct with the Turkish lobby in this country.”

The suit claims that Krikorian, an Armenian-American who failed to unseat Schmidt in 2008, falsely accused her of taking money from Turkish government-sponsored political action committees to deny the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks during World War I.

Filed in June, the suit seeks $6.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the Madeira businessman for what Schmidt claims were false allegations of complicity in campaign finance crimes, bribery and perjury.

This court is being abused in a horrific way by a sitting member of the United States Congress,” Finney said. “We believe this case is frivolous and entirely political. … “These statements [made by Krikorian are] a normal part of the political discourse covered by the First Amendment,” Finney said.

Brey denied Finney’s allegations and said the suggestion Schmidt’s attorneys should be removed from the case was “sort of trial by ambush.”

Finney’s “attempt to depose and take all sorts of attorney-client privileged documents from me and from Jean Schmidt’s other counsel is utterly improper,” Brey said.