Ohio House candidate Jocelyn Smith Tuesday called for her Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Rick Perales, to step down from office and drop out of the race, and threatened to release sexual text messages she says she has between the two of them if he refuses.
She also called for Perales, R-Beavercreek, to take a lie detector test, which he said earlier Tuesday that he would not do. Smith said she won’t take a polygraph unless Perales does.
Smith’s comments came during a bizarre press conference in which some bystanders were asked to leave. Also Tuesday, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he is reviewing the allegations against Perales that Smith is making in the race.
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Smith and Perales each gave exclusive interviews to the Dayton Daily News last week, telling their differing versions of what happened between them. They are the only candidates on the May 8 Republican primary ballot for the Ohio House 73rd District seat, which includes the western part of Greene County.
Smith, of Fairborn, alleges that in January 2015 she had a meeting with Perales in a restaurant, ostensibly because she wanted to talk to him about politics. They left together and got into his Jeep, where she says “he leaned in, kissed me, grabbed my throat and put pressure on it and just when I felt like I was about to pass out he released.”
Perales has admitted sending inappropriate sexual text messages to Smith, but he denies her allegations that he forcibly kissed her and choked her. He said she sent him topless photos and sexual texts in what was a consensual relationship between two adults that he ended after about two months. Both say they never had sex and Smith denies sending nude photos or sexual texts.
Rosenberger’s press secretary, Brad Miller, said the Speaker is reviewing the back-and-forth between Smith and Perales.
“We’re still in the information-gathering phase and the Speaker takes all of this very seriously,” Miller said. “But at the time being we want to make sure the truth comes out and that we don’t rush to any kind of judgment.”
Miller said Perales had warned the speaker in 2016 about “inappropriate” texts that had been exchanged by Perales and Smith and that at the time Rosenberger “agreed what was happening was probably inappropriate and should not be happening (but) it was probably a personal matter.”
“Yesterday was the first we had learned about the allegations about choking or forcibly kissing,” said Miller, referring to the Daily News story.
Smith said she didn’t report her allegations of violence to Rosenberger because, “They try to keep things hush. It’s a good old boys club.”
Smith also did not report the incident to police and continued interacting with Perales afterward because, she said, she thought it would help her accomplish some political objectives. She said Perales, 58, wanted to have sex with her but she refused.
Tuesday’s press conference, which started with Smith lauding the athletic accomplishments of her son, who briefly stood behind her, degenerated into a yelling match between Smith’s campaign advisor, Ralph Wunder, and several Democrats he attempted to throw out of the event. The squabble came after Teri Hobbs, who said she knows Smith because they both officiated high school sporting events, tried to ask a question. Wunder called an end to the news conference after Hobbs refused to leave.
“This is a press conference, lady, stow it or get out,” Wunder said to Hobbs, after earlier forcing Kim McCarthy, the Democrat running for the House seat, to leave.
Outside, Hobbs said she doesn’t know Perales but that Smith has no credibility in her accusations against him.
“This is not her first hurrah with this kind of situation,” said Hobbs. “She has made the same kind of accusations and sent things out to people that probably should not have been.”
“She’s texted pictures to people. I have seen some of them. I have seen too much….What I saw was unclothed. (She sent them) to fellow workers (officiating games),” Hobbs said.
Wunder dismissed Hobbs as “a Democrat already antagonistic to Jocelyn who showed up in order to disrupt the event. That is a well-worn Leftist tactic designed to stifle honest discussion.”
Perales couldn’t be reached for comment after the press conference, but he sent a text before it started that read: “I am comfortable standing on my record, accomplishments and reputation; I’m sure my opponent will likewise have to stand by hers.”
“My opponent’s allegations and claims are baseless and false,” the text says. “I will not stoop to their ‘gutter/Jerry Springer’ politics.”
At the press conference, Smith said she would release evidence if Perales didn’t comply with her demand that he resign.
“Please don’t force me to release the rest of the text messages and other mountains of evidence,” said Smith. “I think you know the honorable thing to do is to step down.”
Smith, 36, is a registered nurse who is a case manager at Sheakley UniComp, a managed care organization. She also teaches at Fortis College.
She was fired from her job as a Clark County deputy sheriff in 2008 after she was accused of showing three co-workers topless pictures of herself, pointing pepper spray in an inmate’s face as a joke, having an inappropriate relationship with a former inmate and insubordination, according to her personnel file and court documents filed in her unsuccessful lawsuit and appeal alleging race and gender discrimination. Smith is black.
In the interview with the Dayton Daily News, Smith said she was fired because then-Sheriff Gene Kelly wanted sex and she did not comply, although she said he never directly asked her for it. Kelly could not be reached for comment and Smith never made those allegations in the court filings.
In a separate court case, a temporary civil protection order was issued in 2009 against Smith by a Clark County Common Pleas Domestic Relations Court magistrate after a former boyfriend accused her of harassing him after they broke up, Clark County court records show. It was later dismissed after a hearing.
In 2014, a Warren County judge placed Smith in a pre-trial diversion program on three counts of telephone harassment of a man, according to court records. She completed the program and the case was dismissed. Last year Smith successfully petitioned the court to have the case expunged, court records show.
McCarthy, who will face the winner of the GOP primary, said in an email earlier Tuesday that Smith’s allegations at the very least “indicate an inappropriate relationship, which suggests that Mr. Perales is not genuinely focused on doing his job as a representative.”
If what Smith alleges about what happened in the Jeep is true, McCarthy wrote, the allegations point to a possible assault.
Outside the press conference later Tuesday, McCarthy said Smith’s firing and legal trouble “obviously complicates things.”
“It’s not unusual for people in positions of power to abuse that position for personal gain,”said McCarthy, of Sugarcreek Twp. “Whether that’s what happened here I don’t know.”