DAVISON TWP. — Matthew Smith, a member of the Davison Board of Education, will face a misdemeanor charge in connection to a March 6, 2020 complaint by the Houghton County Clerk in which she accused Smith of making a threat against her by phone.
The charge, malicious use of telecommunication services, was issued Thursday in 67th District Court following months of investigation, most recently by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, where the case landed after being passed along by the Genesee County prosecutor, who recused himself, and the State Attorney General’s office.
The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Smith issued a written statement in which he denied the charge and accused “political adversaries” of working against him as part of a political smear campaign and false accusations of threats.
“The allegation is threatening this lady and that never happened,” said Smith in the email. “This charge is merely an allegation. I am confident the justice system will see this for what it is: Politics. The good ol’ boys will not silence me, I will not back down, and the truth will prevail.”
Michelle Edwards, director of public information for Davison Community Schools, released a statement from district leaders regarding the case.
“We are saddened that this situation involving Mr. Smith has detracted from a time when we should be focused on celebrating the achievements of our students and staff following a most difficult but successful school year.
“When allegations first surfaced in the fall that Trustee Smith made a threatening call to Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly, at the board’s Nov. 2, 2020 meeting, board of education members questioned Mr. Smith about his involvement in the incident. Then Board of Education President Kathy Sudia read a statement that expressed the Board’s displeasure with Mr. Smith’s alleged behavior.
“Karen Conover, who was serving as Board Secretary at that time, asked Mr. Smith repeatedly if he had made the call to Kelly. Trustee Smith denied threatening Kelly and would only respond that he could not discuss the incident.
“These allegations are disturbing and the fact that Mr. Smith has now been charged with the malicious use of a telecommunications device has again cast the District in a negative light. This is not the example we should be setting for the children we serve.”
Conover, now board president, said this is the first time in the 33 years she has served on the board that a member has faced criminal charges while in office.
“This is certainly not behavior becoming of a Davison Board of Education member,” Conover stated.
Smith was accused last year of making a threatening phone call to Jennifer Kelly, a political rival of a friend and fellow Republican.
Kelly claimed she was awakened by a phone call on March 6, 2020 which lasted more than two minutes in which the male caller identified himself as a TV 6 WLUC-TV reporter and asked to come film her home.
She said she denied the request and the man then claimed he was with the TLC program “Hoarders” and he suggested she should clean her home; Kelly told the Davison Index Oct. 13.
She claims the caller said he was going to make sure she was not re-elected and threatened to poison her dogs and “throw them in a dumpster.”
Kelly said she ended the 2-minute call after the alleged threat and called the sheriff in Houghton County immediately. The next day she said she made a police report.
The Houghton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the phone number where the call originated belonged to Smith. A detective from the Upper Peninsula community had Kelly listen to one of Smith’s campaign ads (at the time he was running for the Genesee County Board of Commissioners) and she said she believed the voice in the recording, that of Smith’s, to be the same as the man who called her.
From there, authorities in Houghton County connected her Republican political opponent, Justin Kasieta, to Smith because they are Facebook friends.
According to police reports, Kasieta admitted he was involved in the call, but claimed it was Smith’s idea and phone. He also said Smith used obscene language during the call, but he said he did not threaten Kelly’s dogs.
Smith denied the claim and filed a police report March 20 in which he told a Davison Township police officer an unknown suspect was using his telephone number to make prank phone calls.
A search warrant was granted to the Davison Township Police Department April 29, 2020 to obtain Smith’s Verizon phone records.
According to the report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the call log confirmed a call was placed from Smith’s phone to Kelly at the date and time she reported receiving the threat.
A detective concluded in his report that if a call had been “spoofed” it would not show up on Smith’s account detail record.
On May 5, 2020, Davison Township Police turned the case over to the Michigan State Police for further investigation due to it involving multiple jurisdictions.
The State Police then sent the case to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, who eventually assigned it to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office.
Genesee County Clerk John Gleason contacted the local media, including the Davison Index, on Oct. 12, 2020 offering an email from Kelly to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
The email provided by Gleason, purportedly from Kelly to the AG’s office, said: “On March 6, 2020, I received a private call at 1:01 a.m. that has forever changed my life. You currently have the case there for review for charges. It has been 7 months today of utter Hell that I have been through. How I have been living in fear is horrible!”
At that time Smith accused Gleason of timing the disclosure of the information to coincide with the final days of his campaign for the Genesee County Board of Commissioners seat, which he lost.
In October, Gleason said he did not bring attention to the case as a political move, adding he thought Smith was trying to shift the blame away from himself regarding the allegations by Kelly.
“There’s no doubt she’s been in collusion with my political adversaries here in Genesee County, too as my Democrat county clerk (who has been working against me for years) is the one who sent out the original political hit piece on me just weeks before my last election,” Smith said in his email statement. “The swamp runs deep in Genesee County and I’ve learned that firsthand.”
Following the announcement of the June 17 charge, Smith also said Kelly has a history of false claims, including accusing a co-worker of making threats against her around the same time she made the accusation against him.
However, The Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton reported March 23 the defamation suit brought against Kelly by a subordinate, regarding the alleged threat, had been dismissed.
Both parties agreed to the dismissal and the complaint was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again.
The alleged “threat” was described as “mischaracterized” by Kelly in the Gazette story.
Smith has not yet appeared in court to answer to the charge.