The ex-wife of a Knox County attorney filed a $200,000 suit against Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham for his comments regarding her during a rally to support a Blount judge under fire for his handling of the woman’s divorce.
Cunningham gave a speech on Nov. 27 at the Blount County Public Library at a rally to support Circuit Judge Dale Young. Kathy H. Wright of Knoxville filed the suit because of comments Cunningham made in front of more than 100 people that she claims were defamatory.
Wright has sued the mayor as an individual, not in his capacity as mayor.
Wright said Cunningham used his position as mayor to review the divorce filing between her and Knox County attorney James Wright when the file was not accessible to the public.
In defending Young’s handling of the case, Cunningham said, “There’s been more litigation and more lawyers and more foolishness that’s gone on in that case and none of it has been Judge Young’s fault but he gets brandished over it. You know that furniture that was burned to stay warm? That was furniture awarded to that man by the court. It was his momma’s antique furniture, and his ex-wife set it on fire.”
The suit said Cunningham’s words were made with specific intent and purpose to harm Kathy Wright and cast her in a negative light to the public. She asked for $100,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. Kathy Wright is being represented by attorney Thomas Mabry.
Cunningham would not comment on the matter, referring questions to attorney Rob Goddard, whom he hired personally to handle the case. Goddard said he and attorney Carl McDonald are doing legal research on the matter. When asked if this was unprecedented that a public official was sued for comments made about a private individual, Goddard said, “It’s basically a defamation suit between two private individuals. I guess they’re rare but not unprecedented.”