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Genesee County GOP official faces trial on misdemeanor charge

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The chair of the Genesee County Republican Party is due in court later this month.

He’s accused of making threats during a phone call to a Democratic official in the Upper Peninsula.

Matthew Smith faces a misdemeanor charge of malicious use of telecommunications services.

The charge came after a Michigan State Police investigation into an alleged threatening telephone call to Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly in March, 2020.

She claims the caller harassed her and threatened to kill her dogs.

Police got phone records that identify Smith as the caller.

Smith was recently elected Genesee County Republican Party chairman, despite the criminal charge which he calls “meritless.”

“The threat never happened,” says Smith. “I said it time and time again. There was not a threatening phone call.”

Smith accuses Genesee County Democrats of being behind the allegation.

“It’s a political hit piece. The public can see this for what it is,” claims Smith. “When you stand up in Genesee County and do the right thing, the Democrats come after you. And that’s an example of what’s happening.”

Genesee County's prosecutor, a Democrat, recused himself from the case.

Local and Michigan State Police investigated.  

If convicted, Smith faces a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

A jury trial is scheduled for September 16. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.