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Man accused of threatening clerk makes court appearance

DAVISON TOWNSHIP — The Genesee County man accused of making a late-night harassing phone call to Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly at the behest of her then-opponent made his first court appearance before a magistrate Friday, according to court records in Genesee County.

A warrant was issued Thursday for Matthew Smith for malicious use of a telecommunications device, a six-month misdemeanor, Genesee County District Court records show.

Smith, a member of the Davison County Schools board, is accused of making a threatening phone call to Kelly in March 2020 that included a threat to kill her dog and derogatory comments about the state of her house.

The Houghton County Sheriff’s Department, Davison Township Police Department and Michigan State Police investigated the report, which was sent to the Attorney General’s office. The AG office then assigned Oakland County’s prosecutor to the case in December after Genesee County’s prosecutor recused himself.

“I’m very happy he’s finally being held accountable for his actions,” Kelly said in a message Friday. “I am disappointed the Oakland Prosecutor didn’t charge him as the MSP requested. Now I’m anxious for the Attorney General to make the other two accountable for their involvement in the call to me.”

Smith’s attorney, Albert Zerka, did not respond to a message seeking comment Friday morning. In a statement to MLive – The Flint Journal, Smith called the allegations false and part of a “political smear campaign.”

“My accuser has a history of false claims … There’s no doubt she’s been in collusion with my political adversaries here in Genesee County, too, as my Democrat county clerk (who has been working against me for years) is the one who sent out the original hit piece on me just weeks before my last election,” he said. “I am confident the justice system will see this for what it is: Politics.”

The caller first claimed to be a TV reporter asking to film her house; he then claimed to be from the show “Hoarders,” Kelly said.

After that, Kelly said, he promised, “I am going to make sure you are never re-elected, you f-ing b–.” He also allegedly said he would “poison her dogs, kill them and throw them in a dumpster.”

Phone records from that night indicated the call came from a downstate number belonging to Smith, according to the incident report. Smith was found to have had Facebook interactions with Justin Kasieta, who ran against Kelly as a Republican in the clerk race. Baraga native Jake Putala had also been on the line, Kelly said.

In a statement relayed to the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office, Kasieta admitted he had been listening in on the call, and said it was Smith’s idea.

Kelly defeated Kasieta in November. Smith was defeated in his run for the Genesee County Board.

Kasieta denied Smith making a threat against Kelly’s dog, only that Kelly’s house was dangerous for it, according to the statement.

An arraignment date for Smith has not been set yet, a court representative said Friday.

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