The race for the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd district is already heating up, with a lawyer for Atlis Gym owner Ian Smith sending a cease and desist letter to rival Bob Healey, Jr. telling him to stop making false statements and threating legal action against him.
According to the Smith’s attorney, Giancarlo Ghione, the Healey campaign told a New Jersey radio station that Smith was found to be in procession of hypodermic needles.
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“This is categorically false as he was never found to be possession of hypodermic needles, as evidenced in the Atlantic County evidence report,” Ghione wrote in a letter to Healey. “Your disregard to the truth gives rise to a level of malice”
Smith, Healey and realtor Nicholas Ferrara are facing off to challenge two-term Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown).
“These statements are defamatory per se as they depict Mr. Smith engaging in criminal activity which he did not engage in,” Ghione wrote “You seem to believe that because the comments were made in connection to another tragic arrest my client was involved in that it is protected speech.”
The allegations are connected to Smith’s admission that he was responsible for a car crash that killed a 19-year-old Galloway man in 2007. Smith pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and has apologized for his actions, which occurred when he was 20.
New Jersey 101.5 reported that Smith was in possession of marijuana and hypodermic needles at the time of his arrest. Smith denies the later part.
“I didn’t expect our campaign to have to get a lawyer to correct a provably false attack on Ian Smith hours after kicking off his campaign,” said Tom Crone, Smith’s campaign manager. “Unfortunately, the outright provable lies from the Healey campaign regarding Ian Smith are egregiously careless or egregiously reckless. Regardless, it is a disqualifying action from an undisciplined and unprepared campaign.”
Crone said Smith is entitled to an apology from Healey, and suggested that if he doesn’t get one, then Healey’s role as the leader of a punk rock band when he was young might also be fair game.
“If the Healey campaign wants to continue to run to the gutter we are more than happy to follow them there and discuss Healey and his former band mates’ misogynistic actions, some of which are laid out in graphic detail in the third issue of Twisted Hillbilly Magazine,” Crone said.
But Healey’s campaign manager, Theresa Velardi, disagrees.
“While we understand that Mr. Smith doesn’t want to talk about it, his criminal background is an issue voters need to be aware of, including the fact that he was – according to New Jersey Court records – charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia/hypo needle,” she said, asking future correspondence to go through the Healey campaign counsel, William Burns.