Witness in 1993 scuffle says Smith was defending himself

Witness in 1993 scuffle says Smith was defending himself »Play Video
Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith answers reporters' questions Tuesday after the lawyer of the woman whom Smith struck during a 1993 party in Eugene gave reporters the police reports Monday night.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A witness to the 1993 altercation between then 20-year-old Jefferson Smith and an 18-year-old woman backs up the Portland mayoral candidate's claims that he was defending himself the night of the incident.

The scuffle between the woman and Smith, who was a University of Oregon student at the time, was put front and center again Tuesday after the woman's lawyer on Monday gave reporters copies of the Eugene police report from that night. In it the woman described to police how she was hit in the eye by Smith at the Oct. 17, 1993 party in Eugene.

"In the midst of him trying to defend himself, he popped her in the face, and it gave her a pretty good gash near her eye. But he didn't reach back and cold-cock her," said Garrett Kleen by phone Tuesday. Kleen, who lives in California, was listed in the police report given to KATU News by the victim's attorney.

He said the woman was swinging her arms at Smith.

The police report noted that the woman was 5 foot 3 and Smith was 6 foot 2.

Smith only described the hit as "knocking on a door" Tuesday during an OPB mayoral debate. In previous interviews, he said he couldn't quite remember what happened.

Another difference in the witness's account and what Smith told KATU’s Anna Canzano in a sit-down interview last week is how easily Smith could have de-escalated the situation.

Smith told Canzano he was backed up against a wall or couch with nowhere to go. But Kleen told KATU News Smith was near the front door and could have easily walked away.

"I wouldn't agree with that, no," Kleen said. "We were in a room – a living room. He wasn't backed up against a wall, I know that. It was close to the front door. He could have just left."

"I was seated in a couch and somebody was coming at me, and I tried to hold her off, and she yelled for me to stop doing that," Smith said in response to the question whether he was up against a wall and unable to walk away. "So in trying to shove her away, I clearly struck her and feel terrible about it."

Smith wrote a handwritten letter and dropped it off to the victim last week before holding a news conference about the incident. It said, "I felt sorry then. I feel sorry now. It was an accident."

But the victim's lawyer says it was not an accident.

"I recognize our memories are profoundly different, and I ask that you not just listen to me or just to her or the at least four or five other people that were there," Smith said.

Smith has said he is a different person today than he was 20 years ago. During Tuesday's debate, he said he's learned more discipline and takes vitamins and medications.

When asked by a KATU News reporter if he's ever had a problem with alcohol or anger management, Smith said his underage drinking was the problem that night.

Charlie Hales, Smith's opponent in the race to be the next mayor of Portland, told the reporter the incident is troubling and wants voters to decide what's important to them.

The assault is the latest in a string of incidents that have surfaced over the past few months involving Smith.

Last year, Smith was asked to leave a basketball game after punching an opponent and was ejected from a rec-league soccer match for pushing another player.

He has received seven speeding tickets since 1994, and the state has suspended his driver's license seven times.