County Attorney Mike O’Connell is being sued for defamation after he called developer and critic Chris Thieneman a “sexual predator.”
Thieneman “is a sexual predator, he was convicted of trying to strangle his then-girlfriend,” O’Connell said in a speech this month at Jefferson Square Park. “And the women in this community should be wary and be prepared to not come in contact with him, ever.”
Thieneman filed the lawsuit in Jefferson County Court on Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges that O’Connell made his comments on May 1 at the Celebration of Law Day event at the downtown park, which is near the Hall of Justice.
“He is a danger to this community, and to the women in this community, and each one should make sure they take every precaution to protect themselves,” O’Connell said, according to the lawsuit.
Claims made in a lawsuit represent only one side of the case.
Thieneman was charged in September 2013 after he was accused of struggling over a cell phone with his ex-girlfriend and then trying to strangle her.
He was acquitted in April of 2016 of misdemeanor assault, but he was fined $500 on the charge of wanton endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Thieneman said that when he heard about O’Connell’s comments, he thought, “There’s no way this is happening.”
O’Connell said in a statement to Courier Journal that Thieneman’s attack is “without merit and is politically motivated” and again recalled his domestic violence incident.
“Chris Thieneman is a convicted domestic violence perpetrator,” O’Connell said. “I am not intimidated by this classic domestic violence bullying tactic, and I wear this lawsuit as a badge of honor for the thousands of domestic violence victims that our office helps every year.”
O’Connell, who is running for re-election and is on the ballot in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, has been criticized for his response to lawsuits alleging sexual abuse in the police’s Explorer Scout program, which is for youths interested in law enforcement careers.
“The timing is not lost on anyone either in light of the fact that this offender has actively worked against me since his conviction and is promoting my opponent,” O’Connell added.
Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson, who is taking on O’Connell in Tuesday’s primary, has aired an online ad that scolds O’Connell for arguing to release the names of Scouts who claim they were abused in the program.
O’Connell, who represents the city in civil matters, said last year that for fairness, plaintiffs should also be identified because the police officers accused of wrongdoing are mentioned by name.
Thieneman, who has been critical of the city response to the allegations, has helped organize trucks plastered with anti-O’Connell signs.
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Thieneman played football for the University of Louisville and later in the World League of American Football and the Canadian Football League before taking over his family real estate business, then starting his own development company.
He ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson County clerk in 2002, U.S. Congress in 2008 and Louisville mayor in 2010. He was defeated by incumbent Democrat Perry Clark in 2012 in a state Senate race.
In the congressional race, he faced U.S. Rep. Anne Northup in the GOP primary before dropping out and angrily accusing GOP leaders — including Northup and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell — of conspiring against him.
Thieneman also led a drive in 2007 to defeat a local occupational tax increase that would have benefited the public library system.