TRM-11-10-22 JUDGE LAWSUIT

Ashley Ahrens and Daniel Fendley, candidates for district court judge in the 12th District, will present oral arguments Nov. 10 in Oldham Circuit Court in a lawsuit Ahrens filed to get Fendley kicked off the ballot for Tuesday’s election.

A missing cat, text messages, YouTube videos and other documents comprise evidence added by district judge candidate Ashley Ahrens in her lawsuit to disqualify judge-elect Daniel Fendley as a valid candidate for office.

Fendley is the unofficial winner of the 12th District Judge race after Tuesday's election, but the lawsuit by Ahrens questions Fendley's legitimacy to fill the seat.

The lawsuit received a first hearing last Friday afternoon in Oldham County Circuit Court as votes in the race to represent Trimble, Henry and Oldham counties were already being cast. Circuit Judge Jerry Crosby rejected Fendley’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed and set a hearing date for 10 a.m. Nov. 14, in Oldham Circuit Court.

Ahrens claims Fendley should be disqualified from the race because he has not continuously lived in Oldham County during the two years leading up to last May’s primary, which is statutorily required, according to her lawsuit. She claims he instead lived at a Norton Commons condo in Jefferson County during a portion of the two-year period.

Fendley maintains he has continuously lived on his parent’s estate in La Grange, calling Ahrens’ petition “defamatory.”

“The lawsuit filed by Mrs. Ahrens is not only time-barred, it is also without merit, defamatory and constitutes an abuse of process,” he said in an email before Tuesday’s election. “I retained Sarah Reddick (Dinsmore & Shohl LLP), and Paul Schurman (Schurman Ackermann PLLC), to pursue all of my legal rights and remedies against my opponent. In the meantime, I ask the voters to exercise their rights. Democracy is under attack. The way to fight back is to vote.”

Since the initial filing on Oct. 21, Ahrens has amended the lawsuit to include new exhibits. It orders the Oldham, Henry and Trimble County boards of election, the state Board of Election and Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams to remove Fendley’s name from the ballot, declare him an unqualified candidate for the Nov. 8 general election or, alternatively, to void any votes cast for him.

The initial exhibit filed in Ahren’s lawsuit included a signed affidavit from Jill Aguiar, described as a “friend and companion” of Fendley’s brother, Reed Fendley, since May 2020.

In that affidavit, Aguiar asserts that she did not see Daniel Fendley at the Fendley Road residence “more than six times” between summer 2020 and May 2022.

Fendley’s “established residence,” she alleges, was a Norton Commons’ condominium during that period.

“Reed and Affiant have visited Daniel's condominium in Norton Commons, to water his plants and take care of his residence while Daniel traveled,” it reads. “Daniel's belongings and personal effects (clothes, toiletries, etc.) were kept at the Norton Commons condominium.”

Exhibits five and six in the lawsuit include alleged text messages between Aguiar and Reed Fendley from May 2020, which Ahrens also uses to support her belief that Fendley moved to Norton Commons in Jefferson County that summer.

The first text conversation in the lawsuit contains the following alleged text from Reed Fendley to Aguiar.

“Have a great Sunday! Sleep in! I’m off to get a light workout in. No running. Just some easily pedaling. Then, coffee & a David Sedaris essay or two before helping Dan move furniture into his condo.”

The next exhibit includes another alleged text exchange between Aguiar and Reed Fendley on May 19.

It starts with Reed Fendley telling Aguiar that “Dan’s moving to NC in the summer.”

Aguiar mistakes NC to mean “North Carolina” before realizing her mistake.

“Wait…I thought he was moving to Norton Commons?” it reads. “Oh! Nc is Norton commons…at first I thought North Carolina.”

“You’re cute,” Reed Fendley replied.

Cats also play a big role in Ahrens’ argument.

Another text exchange between Reed Fendley and Aguiar from Jan. 22 features a picture of a ruddy Maine coon cat that allegedly belonged to Daniel Fendley and his wife, Irina.

The text image shows the cat in a chair, peeking over a countertop at what Ahrens asserts is the Norton Commons property. Behind the cat in the background are weights that Ahrens says Irina Fendley used in “Russian yoga videos” she created for YouTube in Nov. 21, also providing a link to the videos.

The cat resurfaces in Exhibit 13 through an alleged May 2 Facebook post from Irina Fendley to a Norton Commons group.

“Please help me find my cat,” the post reads, with two attached photos of the cat, a 9-month-old Maine coon named Maslo. “Fell out of the window, possibly injured. And most likely scared and hiding somewhere. I will be grateful if you check at your house if the red and fluffy cat is hiding. Thanks for the help!”

The post also includes a tagged location of Norton Commons.

Ahrens, among other text exchanges, also cited a group chat between her husband, Jonathan Wells, primary election opponents Matt Hudson and Gary Stewart, along with Justin Flynn a “surrogate for Fendley,” according to the lawsuit.

Flynn, in that message, allegedly wrote that Fendley and his pregnant wife “has been living directly across from her doctor in Norton Commons, as she can’t drive and Dan is gone 16 hours a day,” it reads.