Smith pleads guilty to phone harassment of Houghton County clerk

Zoom screenshot Matthew Smith, center, pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of phone harassment of Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly in 67th District Court Monday.

FLINT — A Genesee County man pleaded guilty in 67th District Court in Genesee County Monday to making a late-night harassing phone call to Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Kelly in March 2020.

Matthew Smith, 24, pleaded guilty to malicious use of a telecommunications device, a six-month misdemeanor.

“I was trying to help a friend who was running for public office against Ms. Kelly,” he said at his plea hearing Monday. “My actions were totally inappropriate. I sincerely apologize for this call late at night disturbing the peace.”

The call occurred shortly after 1 a.m. March 6. The caller first claimed to be a TV reporter asking to film Kelly’s house, she said after the incident. He then claimed to be from the show “Hoarders.”

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. Smith had only said Kelly’s house was dangerous for it, according to Kasieta’s statement.

Smith will be sentenced under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows for a sentence to be expunged if he successfully completes probation. Because Smith is 24, the HYTA provision required the prosecution to consult with Kelly first, said Brandon Bralog, assistant prosecutor for Oakland County. The state attorney general’s office assigned prosecution of the case to Oakland County due to a potential conflict of interest.

Smith’s sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 11.


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