After a somewhat unsatisfying press conference in response to reports that Jefferson Smith was cited—but never prosecuted—for misdemeanor assault in 1993, his campaign today released the settlement agreement that led to the charge being dropped.
Smith was cited, according to a story first reported by Willamette Week, after injuring a drunk woman who wouldn't stop attacking him in a case of mistaken identity after a prank gone awry at a college party. In the document, Smith agreed his conduct was "wrongful," but in standard settlement boilerplate, also agreed his conduct didn't amount to "criminal wrongdoing." (Screengrabs of the two-page agreement are on the jump.)
"You never know what happens when you go to a jury," Smith said yesterday, explaining why he settled instead of fighting to officially clear his name in court.
The agreement refers to another document, not provided, that apparently details what actually happened.
But it does say the woman needed stitches. Smith, at yesterday's news conference, didn't say how the woman was injured and wouldn't share other key details, citing the privacy of those involved, including how badly the drunk woman was hurt. He also said he didn't have a copy of the agreement, blaming a fire at a storage facility when he was in law school. Turns out his father had a copy, which was redacted by the campaign before they sent it out.
Asked whether Smith's father might have any other documents related to the case at his home, and whether the campaign would share them, the campaign said it didn't immediately know. The Lane County District Attorney's Office told WW and the O, which tried and failed to report the story first, that no documents existed in its files.
I'm still not sure what to make of the report—it sounds like awful bad luck that happened to get the attention of the law. Would anyone be wringing their hands as much if a burly football player wouldn't stop attacking Smith and got hurt for it? The fact that Smith settled doesn't sit well, but I think also think it's telling that witnesses quoted describing the scuffle all said they didn't think Smith did anything wrong. You can buy a 20-year-old just wanting to make something terrible go away at all costs, vanished in the past—until, that is, the ugly shovel of politics starts digging those skeletons up.
I'm also not sure this incident—salacious, but so weird and so random—should make a difference for anyone trying to decide which candidate will be the best on policy issues. Blogger Jack Bogdanski has an interesting theory, for one, about why we're seeing this when we're seeing this: