Ohio House Rep. denies opponent’s claim he kissed and choked her

Rep. Rick Perales says he had an “inappropriate” sexting relationship with Jocelyn Smith.

Jocelyn Smith, the Fairborn woman running in the Republican primary against State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, is accusing him of kissing and choking her in his Jeep in January 2015.

Perales, who is serving his third term in a district that includes Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and other parts of western Greene County, denied choking Smith or having any sexual contact with her, including kissing. He did acknowledge having what he called an “inappropriate” sexting relationship with her that included flirtatious text messages and phone calls.

According to Perales, Smith sent him topless photos and sexually oriented texts but they did not engage in any sexual acts.

“Certainly there was nothing intimate,” said Perales, a former Beavercreek mayor and Greene County Commissioner. “If there was any touching it was all flirtatious, if that. It was sexting. Let me make it very clear to you that I never ever sent any pictures of any sort.”

Smith, who is making her first run for public office, said Perales’s contacts with her went well beyond flirting, though she never filed a complaint with police. She denied sending topless photos or sexually oriented texts.

“He wanted to have sex with me. He didn’t get what he wanted,” Smith, 36, said in an interview on Friday. She said she plans to have a press conference Tuesday to formally launch her candidacy and explain her reasons for running.

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Her contacts with the 58-year-old Perales, who is married with four children, continued from January 2015 through late spring of that year, she said. Those contacts included meetings and sexually-oriented texts and Facebook messages that she says he sent to her. When their interactions ended, she said he would not sponsor a pancreatic cancer specialty license plate bill she wanted.

“He used his job to not help me,” said Smith, who is divorced but says she lives with her ex-husband. “Bottom line, I did not have sex with him and if I would of had sex with him I believe he would of helped me with my license plate.”

Presented with her version of their interactions with each other, Perales said, “She’s a liar. I hope this person gets help. She’s not afraid of changing her story, of one lie to another.”

The allegations from Smith come roughly six weeks before the Republican primary, in which Smith and Perales are the only candidates. The winner in the largely Republican district will face Democrat Kim McCarthy of Sugarcreek Twp. in the November election. McCarthy is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

A firing

Smith is a registered nurse who is a case manager at Sheakley UniComp, a managed care organization, and teaches at Fortis College. She is also a former Clark County Sheriff’s deputy who was fired by then Sheriff Gene Kelly in 2008, prompting her to file a lawsuit.

Asked about the firing last week, Smith said Kelly retaliated against her because she didn’t want to have sex with him.

Smith said Kelly never asked her directly for sex but, “When somebody tells you that you are attractive and (that) most deputies are going to be jealous of you — male and female — you can pick that up.”

“He would make inappropriate sexual comments about how I’m attractive, and my chest,” said Smith, who did not file a harassment complaint against Kelly.

Her lawsuit also made no allegation involving Kelly wanting to have sex with her. She did allege in the lawsuit that Kelly told her she was attractive, but an appeals court ruling upholding her firing states, “Smith does not argue that these comments are direct evidence of discrimination.” Smith argued instead that the comments “may indicate that the Sheriff did not take her as seriously as he did the male deputies,” the ruling states.

Numerous efforts to reach Kelly were unsuccessful.

RELATED: Burchett defeats longtime incumbent Clark County sheriff

Kelly, a Democrat who was voted out of office in 2016, fired Smith in May 2008 during her probationary period after three male co-workers said she showed them a topless photo of herself, according to documents from her personnel file and her unsuccessful lawsuit filed in Clark County Common Pleas Court and her subsequent appeal.

She was reinstated after the Springfield NAACP intervened in her May firing and she said she “understood that the pictures were inappropriate,” according to the appeals court ruling upholding her firing. Smith said the court document is inaccurate in stating that she made that admission.

Kelly fired her again in December 2008 after additional alleged infractions, including pointing pepper spray in an inmate’s face as a joke, having inappropriate contact with a former inmate, and insubordination, court documents show.

According to the Court of Appeals for Clark County court ruling, a citizen complained that Smith “flashed her badge” while looking for a former inmate that “she admits to associating with.”

Smith denies everything but the pepper spray incident, for which she was reprimanded, and said one of Kelly’s lieutenants recruited citizens to “make up stuff on me.”

“They were just padding my file. They were making up lies,” she said. “I was one of Gene Kelly’s targets.”

Smith’s 2009 lawsuit alleged race and gender discrimination, and wrongful termination. In her lawsuit Smith, who is black, said she was treated differently from other employees who were disciplined and she demanded punitive and compensatory damages.

Clark County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard J. O’Neill ruled against Smith’s claim in 2011 and she lost her appeal in 2012 at the Court of Appeals for Clark County. Smith blamed bad legal counsel for her court loss and said there was no proof of she showed topless photos to co-workers.

“There’s no pictures of my breast. You’re going by ‘he said-she said.’ You have three white men making up lies,” Smith said. “And when you’re the head honcho, you’re the sheriff and everybody wants to be the sheriff’s friend, they’re going to do whatever it takes to satisfy the sheriff.”

In a separate court case, a 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. That temporary order was dismissed 17 days later after a hearing in which a Clark County Common Pleas magistrate warned Smith against escalating her behavior.

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 in November 2014. In September 2017 Smith successfully petitioned the court to expunge the case, according to Warren County court records.

In 2015 she obtained a temporary civil protection order against the  man in the telephone harassment case, and that protection order was later dismissed at her request, according to Greene County court records.

‘I was stunned’

Perales, a former college boxer, was involved in an altercation at Elsa’s Restaurant in Beavercreek in 2013 after he said he confronted a man who was being verbally abusive to a woman Perales had been chatting with in the restaurant bar.

Perales, who did not file a police report following the incident, said the man knocked him to the ground and started kicking him while he was down. “I got up and you know defended myself, let’s say that,” Perales said after the incident.

RELATED: State lawmaker takes hits in bar fight, defends himselfSmith and Perales agree that they met in 2014 at a meeting about veterans' affairs. They followed up with a meeting to talk about political issues at a Panera in September of that year and they became Facebook friends. He later texted her to set up a meeting in January 2015 at Cadillac Jacks in Fairborn. She said she began discussing workplace issues for nurses but that he "kept trying to change the subject."

At one point, she said Perales commented,”I bet you are good in bed.”

The two later left the restaurant together, and Smith acknowledged getting into Perales’s truck because it was cold.

“At that point that’s when 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,” Smith said. “I was stunned.”

She said she told him she needed to go. “I went back to my car and just sat there,” Smith said. “He texted me the very next day and said, ‘I had a good time.’’

Perales said he doesn’t remember the specifics of the meeting at Cadillac Jacks but acknowledged that Smith got into his Jeep.

“I can tell you that I didn’t do anything that she alleges I did, meaning lunging, kissing or choking,” Perales said.

She says she continued texting with him over subsequent months and also met him in person, but that her interest was in talking about political issues.

“I was young. I was impressed that he was a state representative and I thought maybe I could talk to him about some issues that I could get done,” said Smith, who was 33 at the time. “And I felt like he took advantage of his position.”

She said Perales invited her to his house and when she arrived, “he tried to kiss me and I pushed back and ended up leaving. His wife was out of town.”

Perales said Smith was never inside his home and he did not attempt to kiss her. The only time she came to his house she never got out of her car in the driveway and she left after he handed her a document related to some political issue, Perales said.

Perales said he accepts responsibility for his poor judgment in his interactions with Smith, and confessed to his wife, Becka, shortly after February 2015. They began marriage counseling and Perales said he tried to back away from Smith.

“There came a point in time, I think February (2015) when I came to understand just how volatile this person was, is,” Perales said.

He said Smith was being threatening and he was “getting late night, one in the morning emails where she was ranting and cursing and calling me every name in the book. And after that it was, ‘How do I escape from this with the least amount of damage?’”

Smith said she told him to leave her alone in the late spring of 2015. But Perales said their friendship ended long before that. He said he didn’t hear much from her for a while but then she began contacting him again.

In June and August 2016, he had his lawyer send letters to Beavercreek Police outlining concerns for his family’s safety.

“It seems quite clear Ms. Smith has a history of troubling behavior with people in public office,” wrote attorney David J. Cusack in the June letter to Police Chief Dennis Evers. “Rick and Becka (Perales) are now very concerned that she will be directing this behavior toward them. Please be aware of this concern and take whatever action you deem necessary.”

On Monday Capt. Chad Lindsey spokesman for the Beavercreek Police Department, said, “Mr. Perales and his attorney wanted BPD to be aware of the situation involving Jocelyn Smith. Contact was not made with Jocelyn Smith and no additional action was taken at that time.”

But Ralph Wunder, Smith’s campaign advisor, said, “Isn’t it ironic that Rep. Perales had his lawyer — not himself — send a letter to the Beavercreek Police to create a butt-covering record only after Jocelyn ended contact with him?”

“Given the behavior of professional politicians, and since it is predictable that Rick Perales would try to cover his tracks by blaming the female accuser, let’s let the public decide who’s telling the truth: We voluntarily offer to take a polygraph test, provided Rep. Rick Perales agrees to take one too,” Wunder said. “We’ll even pay for it.”

‘Bold-faced lies’

Perales said he intends to stay in the race and focus on the issues “up to the point when I have to defend my family or myself when she calls out bold-faced lies.”

“Clearly this person is trying to get revenge and this person’s concern is more about hurting me and my wife and my family,” Perales said.

Both Perales and Smith provided screen shots of texts they said showed the other sexting. In both of the examples, however, it is not evident who the sender was, or the date when they were sent.

Perales said he deleted the topless and suggestive photos Smith allegedly sent him, but he provided a screen shot of a text message he said is from Smith and references a photo she sent.

“I hope that pic didn’t turn you off,” the text says. “Now you have seen it all lol.”

Smith denied sending any sexually oriented photos or texts and said her only texts were ones laughing at his texts and trying to humor him when he sent sexually explicit ones.

Smith provided a copy of a text she said Perales sent while participating in a Republican House caucus. The text does not include his or her name.

“Got me going. Send more. At final cacus offsite but focused on you,” the text said. “Keep. Pics and texting.”

Perales said he doesn’t specifically remember that text but acknowledged sending texts like it during the Republicans’ retreat at Salt Fork State Park. He said he doesn’t recall ever sexting with her from the Statehouse, says nothing he did violated the law or House rules, and what occurred was between “consenting adults.” Perales said he did inform House leadership when Smith began threatening to go public with her allegations.

She continues to criticize him for not sponsoring the bill establishing the specialty license plate that provides funding for pancreatic cancer. Her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and later died because of it. Ultimately, Sen. Bob Hackett, R-London, sponsored the bill, which got Perales’s vote and was approved in 2016.

In a June 2016 email to Perales, Smith complained that “racist Republicans in Ohio” didn’t give her the recognition she deserved for getting the specialty plate approved. In the email provided by Perales, Smith used an obscenity to refer to him and said, “I can make you look like a racist, and/or I can make it look like you used me and when you no longer wanted in my pants, you refuse to help me and recognize my achievement. One just makes you look as bad at the other.”

UPDATES on this story

 ‘Don’t force me to release the rest of the text messages,’ local candidate tells lawmaker

Consultant says challenger Jocelyn Smith out to ‘ruin’ Rep. Perales

 Credibility, #MeToo could be factors in local House race

 Candidate now accusing local lawmaker of ‘fondling’ her

Latest twist: Candidate says she will take polygraph test Thursday

Salacious allegations have dominated Greene County race

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This story was done using public records and includes exclusive interviews by our I-Team. For other I-Team stories, follow us on Facebook at I-Team: Watching your tax dollars and @ITeamOhio on Twitter.

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