Ky. Democrats target local candidate over alleged domestic violence

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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The Kentucky Democratic Party took aim at a local Republican legislative candidate on Wednesday. 

Jerry Gearding is running against Democratic incumbent State Rep. Rachel Roberts in the 67th district in Campbell County. In a tweet, Kentucky Democrats called out the Republican party for nominating “an accused violent abuser to serve in the General Assembly.”

Gearding says that the accuser in his cases had mental health issues, though official police reports make no mention of the accuser’s mental state. The charges were eventually dropped. Republican candidate and former state Rep. Robert Goforth, who was also featured in the Democrats’ message, pleaded guilty last week to strangulation and domestic assault stemming from a 2020 incident, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal

Gearding’s first charge happened in September of 2018 when police were dispatched to a home in Wilder. According to the police report, a woman called and reported that Gearding assaulted and injured her. Gearding was attempting to leave with his 10-year old son, and when police removed Gearding from the car, he “had a strong odor of alcoholic beverages, bloodshot, watery eyes, and could not follow direction.” He refused a field sobriety test, according to the report.

“The female caller had a swollen lip and cut on top of her head,” the police report reads. “She stated (Gearding) punched her and shoved her, knocking her head into the microwave.” 

Further, the report says the son told the police that the two were fighting over a liquor bottle. 

“(Gearding) was a danger to self and others,” the report reads. 

A month later, Gearding was again arrested when police were called to the home in Wilder. The same woman from the previous incident said Gearding was drunk and yelling at her. 

“Officer had arrested Mr. Gearding for Assault 4th on 8/18/18, and Judge (Cameron) Blau made bond release conditions that included no contact with the victim, and no alcohol or drug use,” the police report reads. “The County attorney was notified, and after confirming the conditions of his release with Judge Blau, Mr. Gearding was taken into custody. Mr. Gearding was extremely intoxicated at the time of his arrest.” 

Gearding says he’s innocent and says the woman who accused him of assault has mental health issues. He also believes that he was unfairly treated by the Campbell County court system because he previously ran for Campbell County commissioner. He also said the experience has been a traumatic experience for him and his son, whom he warned that some of these charges would become public during this year’s election.

“I will tell you that in the first incident, I was not intoxicated,” Gearding said. “I was out to lunch with a friend of mine, which was one of the reasons she was mad, and there was no test … how does somebody get charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place in their own home?”

In December of 2018, Gearding pleaded guilty to violating the conditions of his release in Campbell County. He said that was for contempt of court. This issue, he said, was because he was told he could go back home and the charges would be dropped, but the paperwork was never filed.

A month later, in January of 2019, Gearding was arrested again. The same woman called the police to the Wilder home. 

“The girlfriend who advised the male aggressor began arguing with her in the living room, knocked over dog food all over the floor, then pushed her head into the ground,” the police report says.

Gearding went to his mother’s house, and when talking with police, said he had no idea what happened, admitted to the other police officer there had been an argument, and claimed to one officer he was just sleeping at his mother’s house, according to the report. 

“He was extremely intoxicated, slurred speech, unsteady on his feet, admitted to drinking vodka,” the report reads. 

Gearding said that in the last two instances, he had taken melatonin and had a drink, and fell asleep. 

“I had taken some melatonin on both occasions, and I did have one drink the last time because I was at my mom’s in Alexandria,” Gearding said. “I wasn’t even there. So you know, it’s ridiculous, and you know, I will tell you that that part of what they wanted me to do was have an evaluation for alcohol, and I did.”

Eventually, all these charges were dropped in the summer of 2020, after Gearding completed diversion, which involved Gearding having to move out of state. 

“I had to move out of the state, and I didn’t want to pull my son out of school in the middle of the year, so I asked him if I could move to Ohio, and I was told ‘no, you need to go farther than that,'” Gearding said. “So I had to move where my employer was at the time in South Carolina.”

Anna Zinkhon, the Campbell County Republican Party chair, talked to LINK nky on Wednesday about Gearding. 

“He was never convicted of a crime, and we’re all innocent until proven guilty,” Zinkhon said. “I do believe that there’s a mental health problem with the person making the alleged accusations in this issue.” 

The Campbell County Republican party backs Gearding, Zinkhon said, as they do with all Republican candidates in Campbell County. 

“I have been working with Jerry for over a year now and found him to be a professional person,” Zinkhon said. “And I see no grounds to have any concern about some of his past history.”

Colmon Eldridge, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, disagreed in a Tweet.

“Domestic Abusers have no place in electoral politics or elected office,” Eldridge said. “Period. 

Incumbent Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) said that she and Gearding would have to run on their individual records, and the voters of Campbell County would have to decide. 

“I think that the people of Campbell County want elected leaders to be upstanding, thoughtful, curious, and highly effective in the district,” Roberts said. “I don’t believe that people in Campbell County want to send someone to Frankfort who has a history of arrests for violence and lawlessness.”

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