by Ron Gregory
LOGAN — Despite assertions by some supporters, a civil law suit filed by State Senator Richard Ojeda against Jonathan Porter filed in Logan County Circuit Court appears to confirm Corridor Chronicle reports concerning an alleged May incident.
In the suit, filed on Ojeda’s behalf by former Kanawha County Prosecutor Mike Clifford, Ojeda admits an alleged physical attack by Porter occured at a “political event.” Earlier, when the Chronicle called the gathering a “political rally,” Ojeda defenders disputed the claim that the event was “political” in nature. One even insisted, on social meeting, that the affair was a “church picnic paid for by the church.”
The Chronicle has questioned on multiple occasions who paid for the political event since it does not appear to be listed as an expenditure on any financial report filed with the Secretary of State.
In addition, Ojeda’s suit confirms that he suffered “mental anguish” as a result of the alleged altercation. Ojeda claims Porter made an unprovoked, but pre-calculated attack on the now-Senator when Ojeda attempted to place bumper stickers on Porter’s vehicle. Ojeda asserts that Porter requested the stickers during the political function.
Since the alleged attack occurred two days before the May Democrat primary, it became national news. Ojeda defeated long-time public official Art Kirkendoll, then the incumbent state senator, in the following Tuesday primary. Porter was later arrested and is awaiting trial on battery charges.
From his hospital bed, an obviously wounded Ojeda implied that Kirkendoll and his supporters had a role in the alleged assault. His story was repeated on national news, including cable news outlets.
The Chronicle, observing the Ojeda campaign was based on his charges that Kirkendoll had “hidden” public information from view and that Ojeda would be “open and transparent,” has questioned the Senator about comments by his wife at the time of the alleged beating. Kirkendoll’s wife told media outlets her husband had suffered a stroke “a few days before” the alleged attack.
The paper has gone on to ask Ojeda if there are any lasting physical or mental results of the stroke or beating. While Ojeda has consistently refused to answer such inquiries, insisting he is a “private citizen” not even subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, his lawsuit appears to confirm that his injury to “body and mind” are on-going and, likely, permanent.
The civil case, 16-C-197, has been assigned to Kanawha County Circuit Judge Louis “Duke” Bloom. Both Logan County judges recused themselves from the case.
“… Plaintiff (Ojeda) sustained multiple facial fractures and other injuries and was required to undergo medical treatment and medical expenses in amounts not yet ascertained,” says Ojeda’s suit. “The plaintiff has suffered great pain of body and mind, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of ability to enjoy life, permanent physical disability, mental anguish, annoyance and convenience, and has suffered otherwise, some or all of which is permanent in nature.”
Interestingly, new Logan Circuit Judge Joshua Butcher asked to recuse himself from the case because of being elected to his current position in the May 2016 primary. In that contest, Butcher defeated incumbent appointed Judge Douglas Witten. Witten challenged the results, carrying his challenge all the way to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Butcher, in his letter requesting to be recused, said, “… while preparing to defend my election, I and my counsel had substantial contact with Senator Ojeda, who was disclosed as a potential witness for my defense. In addition, I was compelled to file a response to Judge Witten’s petition in which I publicly asserted that the allegations against Mr. Porter were true.”
The case is set for a pre-trial conference on December 20. The trial is tentatively set to begin at 8:30 a.m., on January 8, 2018. Witnesses are to be disclosed by June 16.