Former House candidate pleads guilty to coercion

By Scott Halasz

XENIA — A former Ohio House candidate was fined $500 and sentenced to monitored time Jan. 28 after pleading guilty to coercion in Greene County Common Pleas Court.

Jocelyn Smith, 37, of Fairborn was to have a jury trial Feb. 4 to face charges of extortion, a third-degree felony, and coercion, a second-degree misdemeanor, after her election opponent, Rick Perales, filed a complaint with Fairborn Police last April stating Smith was extorting him through her allegations and her insistence that he step down from his elected position and drop out of the race.

The extortion charge was dropped as part of a plea deal with Special Prosecutor Stephen Pronai. Smith — who lost to Perales in the Republican primary as she sought to unseat him as the 73rd District rep — previously pled not guilty to both charges last July.

The campaign turned dramatic quickly when an alleged relationship between the two became public.

Smith alleged that in January 2015 Perales kissed and choked her while they were together in his Jeep after a meeting in a restaurant. Perales repeatedly denied they ever had any kind of physical contact but admitted he had taken part in inappropriate texting.

In March 2018, Smith sent a letter to then-Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, asking the Ohio House of Representatives to investigate the allegations against Perales, which included exchanging sex for legislation. Rosenberger responded via letter in April, stating that if the allegations were true that she should contact law enforcement officials. Smith said she would follow the speaker’s recommendation. Rosenberger later resigned while facing an FBI investigation.

After Perales filed his complaint, Greene County Prosecutor Stephen K. Haller asked Pronai, the Madison County prosecutor, to review the evidence in the case and decide how the case would move forward because of Perales’ connection to Greene County as a former commissioner.

Court records indicate Judge Timothy S. Hogan is assigned to the case, as well as a special prosecutor.

Defense Attorney Ben Swift said a crime has “absolutely not” been committed and called the charge “baseless.”

“Apparently things were said during a political campaign … for some reason Perales is choosing to go the court route. I believe this is an abusive process of the judiciary and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Swift said. “I think it is an absolutely vindictive prosecution. I think you have to question the motivation of the alleged victim in this case.”

According to court records, Smith has paid fines and fees totaling $816.

By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507. Anna Bolton contributed to this story.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507. Anna Bolton contributed to this story.