In college, Jefferson Smith cited for misdemeanor assault

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

This afternoon, Jefferson Smith held a press conference to address the revelation by Willamette Week today that he had been cited for misdemeanor assault while a sophomore at University of Oregon. (Update: It's worth noting that "cited" is not the same as "convicted". These charges were dropped before they went to court.)

The story, as told by WW:

Witnesses say the victim was intoxicated and was resting on a couch when another party-goer tipped the couch over, knocking the woman to floor. They tell WW she then began hitting Smith because she thought he was the one who had tipped her to the floor.

Witnesses say Smith then tried to stop her from hitting him. “She woke up abruptly and freaked out and started hitting Jefferson, and he was like, ‘Whoa, hold on’ and telling her to stop,” recalls Afton Spies, who was present at the party, located at 1414 Alder Street in Eugene. “She kept on hitting and going a little crazy, and after while of her hitting him, he held her hands and kind of tapped her on the forehead.”

According to the O's Beth Slovic, there are no court records. In a post-presser story, Slovic quoted extensively from a pair of witnesses at the party. One, Afton Spies, told the story like this:

"Unfortunately Jeff was there," Spies said. "And she just started going crazy on him, thinking it was him that woke her up," said Spies, who knew Smith at Grant High School and graduated two years after him, in 1993.

"I think she had been drinking and whatnot, and she just started whaling on Jefferson. Uncontrollable. And he tried to stop her. We were kind of shocked by it all. He told her to stop multiple, multiple times. And she didn't."

Spies said Smith tried to hold the woman's hands back and finally "kind of tapped her on the head." Asked how Smith tapped her, Spies said she didn't remember but then said, "It was, like, with his finger." Spies said Smith was "absolutely not" at fault.

"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time," she said. "It could have been any guy. He handled it very well."

KGW reports that, at his press conference, Smith declined to blame the Charlie Hales campaign:

"What I do know is that there are some powerful interests wanting to take me down," he said. "What I don't know is any involvement of any other campaign."

On the jump, Smith's statement in full.

What do you think? How damaging are these revelations to Smith's campaign? Discuss.

Smith's statement:

In the last few months there have been rumors and whispers that someone has been planning a negative independent expenditure campaign against me. Our campaign has taken no polls, run no negative campaigning, and done no opposition research. I think that’s an important way to act as a candidate, and as a mayor.

I’ve heard untrue rumors and lies that seek to make this campaign about innuendo and personal smears rather than on our ideas and vision for the city.

Reporters have been knocking on my friends’ doors. I want everyone to know that when you have questions, you can just ask me. There’s something that happened to me in college that I think is the source of a rumor I’ve been hearing. I’m telling you the story now, so we can stop with the rumors and get on with our campaign to get Portland working, working better, and working for more people.

In college I was at a party, and there was a woman there that I didn’t know. She had had some drinks and fallen asleep on a couch with several people around. Someone pushed her off the couch, and she mistakenly thought it was me. She came at me, punching me. I held her wrists so she would stop, and when I let her arms go, she started hitting me again. Again trying to get her to stop, I pushed her away. She was coming at me at the same moment, and she was injured.

It was 19 years ago; I was a 20-year-old in college. It remains the worst night of my life, and it’s painful for me to write about. What happened was accidental. I immediately made sure she got to the hospital, and then reached an agreement with her to pay her medical bills and do community service. She’s a private citizen who didn’t choose to become a public figure like I did, and I was hoping that she wouldn’t have to be dragged into this campaign.

The city’s been through a lot and deserves a mayor who will tell the hard truths, even about ourselves. I want people to cast their vote with all the information they need to make the right choice. And I want my supporters to know that I will tell you the truth, even if it makes us all uncomfortable.

When I got into this race, I knew I’d lived an imperfect life, and I knew that my wife was a pretty private person. I knew this race could be hard. I did it because there’s so much at stake. I did it because there are people in my neighborhood who face much deeper challenges than anything I’ve had to face.

From the start, I’ve said this race is not about me. My greatest concern is not what happens to me, but that people get distracted from the critical needs of our city. We need to be talking about families struggling to make rent and hoping to stay off the street, folks out of work and worried about going hungry, kids falling further and further behind in school every summer, and the thousands of other hardships Portlanders go through every day. I’m not perfect, but we should be focused on doing our small part to fix problems for the 580,000 people in this city.

Now more than ever, I’m grateful for your support. And your friendship.

    • (Show?)

      without a court record, without a conviction of a crime and despite multiple eyewitnesses uniformly confirming Smith acted in self-defense

      Thanks, Mike, for reminding me that "cited" is not the same as "convicted". I've added that clarification to the post above.

    • (Show?)

      Bernstein has gone on to write a few books, notably a biography of Hillary Clinton, and do investigative reporting.

      Woodward has become the quintessential access whore.

      And so it goes.

  • (Show?)

    This story alone is not a basis for voting against Jefferson Smith. But, when coupled with the other details of his character (seven driving suspensions, recent ejection from a basketball game, and suspension by a soccer league, etc.), it is very reasonable to ponder: can THIS GUY be trusted to serve responsibly as Portland’s next mayor?

    Let’s fill in the details of this story. Per his official campaign statement, Jefferson Smith was a 20-yr-old in 1993 at a party in Eugene. A witness being cited in recent news stories is Afton Spies, listed as two years younger, a 1993 Grant HS graduate. She says the injured woman had awoken from sleeping on a couch, was hitting Jefferson, and he “…kind of tapped her on the forehead.” OK. That tap resulted in a cut requiring medical treatment paid for by Jefferson, and also resulted in misdemeanor charges. Those charges precipitated a settlement.

    That ‘tap’ seems to have been more like a ‘blow’; a hard, angry shove or a backhand comes to mind. So, maybe the credibility of Afton, a 17-18 year old party participant is a bit suspect. As should be expected from a (likely) minor at a typical UofO party. One wonders further: how old was the girl who sustained the cut forehead courtesy of Jefferson’s hand?

    But, again, this is just old news, right? We can rest assured that the same Jefferson Smith with SEVEN driving suspensions and two soccer league ejections will never again injure an underage female at a UofO bacchanal. OK then.

  • (Show?)

    I think it could hurt him, particularly with those voters who are still on the fence. If this were an isolated incident I don't think it would matter one bit, but it appears there may be a pattern of behavior that might give folks pause. He's fortunate that his opponent has a similar number of warts that affect his attractiveness.

    I really wish he hadn't used the "powerful interests want to take me down" argument. It sounds silly to my ear. Which "powerful interests" are trying to manipulate the Portland Oregon mayoral race -- Carl Rove? the Mafia? Dow Chemical?

    I had such high hopes for this mayoral race. Oy.

      • (Show?)

        There are developers literally creaming in their pants over this one. Best thing they've seen in print for a long time. Gahd, I wish we had a real competing pape in Portland that had a liberal/working class slant.

  • (Show?)

    The driving record was damaging. This has no 'there" there. A party incident. End of story.

  • (Show?)

    Was this Kennedy at Chappaquiddick? No.

    Was this Wu at Stanford University? No.

    This was a few drunk kids at a U of O party. However the fact that it got as far as criminal charges makes me think there is more than meets the eye, and it does fit a pattern of behavior that would give people concern. Any of these things by themselves are easily dismissed...but together, it does make people wonder about his temperament, his judgement and perhaps a sense of entitlement. Not helped, of course, by his blaming "powerful interests" bent on his destruction.

    • (Show?)

      Isn't it an important factor in cases like these whether the person being assaulted had the ability to simply step away and leave the scene? Smith could have done that, from the accounts I've read in the press. No one was keeping him from removing himself from the vicinity of the assaulter.

      • (Show?)

        If so, is that something that 20 years later disqualifies him from being mayor?

      • (Show?)

        According to the KATU interview, she had him pinned against a couch against a wall.

      • (Show?)

        I live in Hillsboro. Portland is just Intel's bedroom suburb as far as I'm concerned, so I don't have a particular viewpoint on this election.

        But, I think people should be REALLY CAREFUL about concluding much of anything about this long ago incident.

        Even minutes or hours after a traumatic event, people remember things differently. They had different angles, or different interpretations, or different levels of intoxication, or misconstrued statements, motivations or postures of others. Sometimes police record things inaccurately. And 20 years later?????

  • (Show?)

    Does anyone know if Charlie Hales has given back that dirty coal money his campaign took yet?

  • (Show?)

    Now we know the kind of things that humor up judges at lunch break.....


connect with blueoregon