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Michigan GOP official ordered to write 'political bullying' essay for malicious phone call

Genesee County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Smith
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Genesee County Republican Party Chairman Matthew Smith

The Genesee County Republican Party Chairman will have to write a thousand word essay on ‘political bullying’ as part of his sentence for making a malicious phone call to a Democratic county clerk in 2020.

On Tuesday, a judge sentenced Matthew Smith to 12 months probation on the misdemeanor charge. He was also ordered to pay a $650 fine. Smith will also have to complete 240 hours of community service.

Smith pleaded guilty to the charge in November.

Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly says she received the 1 a.m. telephone call back in March 2020. Kelly told the court that during the call, which she describes as “intimidating,” Smith threatened to poison her dogs. Kelly says late night phone calls and strange cars in her driveway still scare her.

Smith admits to making the call as a way to assist a friend who was running against Kelly, who was seeking re-election in 2020. Smith says his intent was to annoy Kelly.

In court, Smith apologized for making the phone call, though he denies the allegation that he threatened to kill the woman’s dogs.

“People in my community are signing recall petitions...thinking I’m an animal abuser. And that’s simply not true,” said Smith.

Before handing down his sentence, District Judge William Crawford chided Smith, saying he has “credibility issues.”

Assistant Oakland County prosecutor Brandon Barlog says the 24 year old Smith needs to "grow up."

“It’s time the defendant...be a man...and start behaving in an appropriate fashion going forward,” Barlog told the court.

As part of his sentence, because of his age, Smith’s record will be expunged if he successfully completes probation.

In the meantime, a petition drive to oust Smith from the Davison School Board faces a deadline this week to collect enough signatures to force a recall election.

Matthew Smith blames some of the criticism he’s received on the news media, which he says has “misconstrued” his case.

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.
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