PLANTATION KEY -- Former Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward has been slapped with a slander lawsuit for comments he made on US1 Radio 104.1 following his election loss in August 2012.
During an Aug. 16, 2012, interview by radio host Bill Becker, Ward was asked if his prosecution of former Monroe County Superintendent of Schools Randy Acevedo and wife Monique played a role in his loss to Catherine Vogel during the Democratic primary.
"Ah, no question about it. They got this little guy named Eddie Perez, got like a heroin bag on his side, going around tearing down my signs and ... they just put [their signs] up wherever they wanted to put them up, and that's sad to say for the chief law enforcement officer of the county to be doing that stuff," according to the lawsuit filed by Perez in Orange County Circuit Court.
Randy Acevedo was convicted of three counts of felony official misconduct in 2009 and sentenced to three years of probation for covering up for wife Monique, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to stealing $413,000 from the school district. She received an eight-year prison sentence.
Ward last week said the slander lawsuit is retaliation for his prosecution of the Acevedos, whom he describes as friends of Perez.
"[Perez] was calling my office every day back then," he said.
In the three-page complaint, Perez' attorney, Adam Ross Littman, of Winter Park, wrote that malice is presumed in this case as his client was accused of three crimes, including possession or use of heroin, illegally tearing down Ward's campaign signs and illegally putting up campaign signs. According to the suit, Perez is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 for mental and emotional pain and permanent damage to his reputation.
Littman did not respond to several calls seeking comment. Attempts to reach Perez were unsuccessful. Ward said he will seek guidance from an attorney.
"I'm looking at people in Miami and Tallahassee right now," said Ward, who has 20 days from Oct. 24 to respond to the lawsuit, providing he doesn't ask for an extension.
Ward is currently working as a private attorney and serves on Islamorada's Local Planning Agency. It is not clear why the suit was filed in Orange County, but Ward believes Perez may live there.
In the Democratic primary for state attorney last year, political forums featuring Ward and Vogel were at times heated. Former State Attorney Mark Kohl, who was Vogel's former employer, filed to run on the Republican ticket for the general election, but did little campaigning. Due to Kohl's filing, only Democrats could cast ballots in the Vogel-Ward race. Many, including Ward, figured the two had coordinated their efforts to defeat him. After defeating her former boss in the general election, Vogel hired Kohl to work in her Upper Keys office.