Thursday, October 7, 2004

Team owners get case delay

By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

BURLINGTON - A judge has granted a part-owner of the Florence Freedom and his wife, who have been sued by the city of Florence, more time to find a lawyer.

Chuck Hildebrant and his wife, Connie, now have until Oct. 15 to respond to a lawsuit in which Florence is seeking punitive damages.

Florence sued the Hildebrants and the Freedom's ownership group, Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, in August claiming they violated the lease, which allowed a baseball stadium to be built on city-owned land.

On Sept. 17, Chuck Hildebrant asked Boone Circuit Judge Stanley Billingsley for more time to find a lawyer.

"Both defendants have consulted with a number of attorneys that have agreed to take the case, only to discover a conflict of interest due to the large number of defendants," Hildebrant wrote. Billingsley granted the request.

The suit also names at least 22 contractors who have filed nearly $5 million in liens against the team's still unfinished stadium. Fourteen law firms in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati represent those contractors.

The deadline extension means that a hearing on the case set for today has been canceled. Florence had asked the judge to declare the Hildebrants in default.

Florence attorney Peter Koenig said judges routinely grant defendants more time if they ask for it.

Florence will continue to pursue "a large financial judgment against the Hildebrants," Koenig said. Florence is suing the Hildebrants because they personally guaranteed the lease and told the city they had enough assets to cover the cost of the stadium and fulfill the lease obligations. The city also claims that the financial statements Hildebrant provided were false.



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