Hancock County

Charges filed by mayor’s daughter are ‘character assassination,’ lawsuit says

The van of former Bay St. Louis mayoral candidate Jeff Harding features criticisms of Mayor Les Fillingame and his daughter, Katie Fillingame Stewart.
The van of former Bay St. Louis mayoral candidate Jeff Harding features criticisms of Mayor Les Fillingame and his daughter, Katie Fillingame Stewart. The Sea Coast Echo

Former mayoral candidate Jeff Harding on Tuesday filed a defamation suit against Mayor Les Fillingame’s daughter, Katie Fillingame Stewart, claiming the criminal charges she filed against him last week were false and “a calculated act of character assassination.”

Stewart filed affidavits with the Bay St. Louis Police Department on Aug. 15 alleging that on Aug. 13, Harding “did purposely, knowingly and unlawfully attempt to put (her) in fear of eminent serious bodily harm by following her bumper to bumper, blasting horn, putting (her) and her seven-year-old in fear of causing accident or bodily harm.”

According to the affidavit, Stewart’s “son was in a panic due to the horn and him following so close they felt fear for their life.”

Harding was allegedly driving a customized Dodge van which he has dubbed the “Less Fillin-machine.” It is multi-colored with bull horns and multiple stickers with statements such “Les Lies a Lot,” “Corruption.”

It also has several multiple $3 bill stickers affixed, bearing images of Fillingame wearing a crown. The van also bears a sticker saying, “Daddy says I get $15 an hour,” presumably a slam against Stewart, who works for the city.

Harding faced a charge of simple assault — attempt by physical menace to create fear; following too closely; and reckless driving.

Harding’s attorney, George W. Healy IV, filed the suit in Hancock County Circuit Court late Tuesday afternoon.

In the suit, Harding claims that Stewart “knowingly and purposely made false accusations against” him and “purposely and maliciously averred that (he) attempted to assault her or intimidate her by use of a motor vehicle.”

The suit further claims that Stewart “urged her father Mayor Les Fillingame to call various law enforcement officers and encourage them to arrest (Harding).” It claims Stewart’s actions “constitute outrageous conduct ... (and) intentional infliction of emotional distress,” as well as negligence, slander, libel and defamation.

Harding claims he has suffered “loss of reputation, shame, mortification, hurt feelings, and emotional distress,” and that the incident has damaged his business.

He is seeking unspecified punitive damages, general damages, court costs and attorney’s fees with legal interest.

A civil lawsuit reflects only one side of a dispute.

Fillingame said Tuesday that neither he nor Stewart wished to comment on the suit.

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