Eugene police cited Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland) in 1993 for
an misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an incident with a woman at
an off-campus party when he attended the University of Oregon.
Police and the Lane County District Attorney's office dropped the charge after Smith, then 20 and a sophomore at UO, settled out of court with the woman.
Smith spoke to WW Monday about the incident after witnesses and Smith's father, Joe Smith, confirmed details.
Witnesses say the victim was intoxicated and was resting on a couch when another party-goer tipped the couch over, knocking the woman to floor. They tell WW she then began hitting Smith because she thought he was the one who had tipped her to the floor.
Witnesses say Smith then tried to stop her from hitting him. "She woke up abruptly and freaked out and started hitting Jefferson, and he was like, 'Whoa, hold on' and telling her to stop," recalls Afton Spies, who was present at the party, located at 1414 Alder Street in Eugene. "She kept on hitting and going a little crazy, and after while of her hitting him, he held her hands and kind of tapped her on the forehead."
Here's what Smith tells WW: "Somebody I didn't know was asleep on the couch. Somebody pushed her off. She came at me and started swinging at me. I tried to get her to stop. My memory is I was seated on a couch. I tried to get her to stop and told her to stop. I held her wrists and she said, 'Let go of me.' I tried to push her away and obviously made contact with her, and there was an injury."
The woman suffered a cut above her eyebrow, Smith says, which needed medical attention.
"It was the worst night of my life," Smith says. "It was an accident and I tried to take responsibility for it immediately."
Smith declined to name the woman. He says he later agreed to 20 hours of community service, apologized to the woman, and paid her medical bills, which he recalled were "a couple of hundred dollars." In exchange, he says, the charge was dropped.
Jennifer Daggett, who hosted the party and had known Smith at Grant High School, says she and others were subpoenaed to Lane County Circuit Court to testify in the case. "I did go down to Eugene," Daggett says. "I was subpoenaed and I took that seriously."
Daggett says that she and three others from the party appeared at the courthouse and were later told the case had been resolved. "I don't know a lot about the court system," Daggett says, "But I remember them saying they settled."
Spies and Daggett say they would have testified that Smith was trying to defuse an ugly situation.
"It was absolutely her fault," Spies says.
Neither can recall the name of the woman involved.
In response to WW's public records request, Lane County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patricia Perlow says there is no record of the case either in her office's file or in the law enforcement data system.
Smith has talked about his first two years in Eugene as a difficult time, when he struggled academically.
News of the 1993 incident comes after WW reported on Smith's aggressive behavior last year in a co-ed soccer league, when he was ejected from a game and the league for roughness; and at a pickup basketball game, where he was asked to leave after punching another player.