A Democratic challenger for a state House seat in northwestern Connecticut has set off a firestorm with a campaign mailer alleging the incumbent lawmaker has been accused of sex assault in a complaint filed with state police.
In the mailer, Democratic challenger Noel Rodriquez called on state Rep. Jay Case, R-Winchester, to resign. Included in the mailer is the top of a State Police witness statement from a man alleging a 2012 incident in Case’s home.
State police have confirmed they are investigating allegations made in the statement, although it is not clear whether there are other aspects to the complaint beyond the statement.
The mailer, sent to homes in the four-town 63rd House district, is now also the subject of a complaint before the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Republican leaders said.
Case posted on his campaign’s Facebook page that he was “infuriated by Noel Rodriquez's despicable mailer that hit boxes today. I can't overstate how outrageous this allegation is, and I categorically reject, 100 percent, any claim of wrongdoing. I’m disappointed and disgusted by this malicious, coordinated attack from Rodriquez and political operatives who have empowered his reckless actions. The pain he has inflicted upon my family is immeasurable.”
The post attracted more than 120 responses, most of which were in support of Case, a small business owner who was first elected in 2012.
Case declined Hearst Connecticut Media’s request to comment directly on the allegations, but House Republican leaders this week called it a “political smear job” and asked Rodriquez to leave the race.
The accuser made his statement to State Police on Sept. 30, the witness statement, a copy of which was obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, indicates. Within five days it was on printed, mailed campaign literature. Hearst Connecicut Media is not identifying the accuser because he is alleging he was the victim of a sexual assault.
The accuser, now 25, referred all questions to his lawyer, who along with Rodriquez declined to comment when asked how the complaint ended up in the hands of the Rodriquez campaign – which is publicly funded under the Citizens’ Election Program, a program which most General Assembly candidates use.
“It is outrageous that these vile, baseless allegations are leveled now, one month before the elections and that taxpayer funds were used in the process,’’ House Republican Leader Themis Klarides and Deputy Leader Vincent Candelora said in a written statement. “Jay Case is not resigning because he has done nothing wrong.’’
Case’s treasurer has filed the complaint over the mailer with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, charging that it is a “misuse” of the state’s public-financing program.
The accuser’s lawyer, Alexander Taubes, called his client “a very impressive and very courageous young man who is taking a stand against physical and emotional abuse that he has suffered.”
The mailing, sent to homes in Goshen, Colebrook, Torrington and Winchester that comprise the 63rd House district, says “Sexual Assault Jay Case Must Resign!” in large letters on one side in white and black letters against a red background. On the other it includes the top of the witness statement in black and white, then “Vote Rodriquez” in white on a blue background.
“I think I made my point clear,” said Rodriquez. “I think the allegations are very serious. All I can say is that the allegations were made against Mr. Case."
“The allegations are being addressed as they should be, by the state police,” said Nancy DiNardo, chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee. “A campaign mailer is not a good way to adjudicate a sexual assault claim.”
In July, Rodriquez was granted a pardon by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles for past convictions, including the theft of dirt bikes and a felony burglary charge that landed him in prison for 14 months in 2009 and 2010, his senior year in high school. The pardon was first reported in The Hartford Courant. In 2018, Rodriquez, then living in Woodbridge and registered with the Republican Party, briefly attempted to run a primary campaign against Klarides, a Derby Republican who is not seeking re-election this year.
Rodriquez and Case are both participating in the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program, which is funded through the state’s abandoned-property program - including the bank accounts of deceased people without heirs - then provides funding for candidates that gather thresholds of contributions from voters.
According to Rodriquez’s filing, in September he spent about $932 to have the mailers printed by Fifty Five Printing.com in Los Angeles, then about $1,700 for postage at the Goshen, Colebrook, Torrington and Winsted post offices.
Republicans have held the seat since 2007.
The SEEC complaint, filed by Dustin Bingham, Case’s campaign treasurer, charges that the mailer contained “false and malicious accusations.” The complaint names Rodriquez’s treasurer Jeremy Kincaid as a co-respondent.
“This was an inappropriate and egregious misuse of monies intended to provide clean elections in Connecticut,” the complaint says. “The Citizens’ Election Program is being manipulated to advance the agenda of an outside influence which has no bearing on the state representative race.”