If you think the presidential election is nasty, it’s got nothing on local politics in West Virginia. A war veteran running for a state Senate seat there, Richard Ojeda, was brutally beaten at a weekend cookout that he believes was politically motivated.
Ojeda is now in a trauma unit at a local hospital, with eight fractures in his face and several broken bones. He’s scheduled for surgery later this week, CBS News reported.
But the 24-year Army veteran, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, had tough words for the unknown masterminds of his attack, according to NBC News.
“I’ve dealt with the Taliban and al Qaeda. I’m not scared of some ignorant, uneducated, a——-.”
Police are trying to determine if Richard was attacked for political reasons, WCHS reported. He’s convinced that his alleged attacker, childhood friend Jonathan Stuart Porter, was ordered to beat him up — two days before the primary.
“I can’t point fingers at anybody, but someone, something motivated this young man to do what he did to me,” Ojeda said. “I believe that we come from an area that has been hampered with the good ‘ole boy network and that seems to be the only thing around these parts that continues to rule.”
Richard’s relative, Manuel, believes the “people behind it are the powers that be right here in the courthouse.”
Richard doesn’t remember the attack very well, and witnesses have filled in the blanks. Ojeda was at a political cookout on Sunday in the mountains of Logan County when Jonathan, 41, asked Richard to put a campaign bumper sticker on his car.
“Then he lures me to the front of the truck where nobody can see us,” Ojeda recalled.
The next thing he remembers is “pretty much coming to…my head’s on a tree stump and I’m spitting blood, got blood all over me.”
Witnesses described a brutal beating.
“Porter struck Ojeda in the back of the head while he was bent over in front of Porter’s truck, knocking Ojeda unconscious,” the criminal complaint, based on witness statements, read. “Porter continued to strike the victim in the face while he laid [sic] on the ground.”
Witnesses also claimed that Porter struck Ojeda eight or nine times with brass knuckles, which haven’t been uncovered by police.
The suspect then got into his vehicle and tried to run Richard over, but bystanders stood in his way. Porter drove off, slamming into two ATVs blocking the road, and escaped into the mountains, where he laid low for six hours before peacefully turning himself in.
No one else was injured.
Porter has since between charged with malicious assault, malicious attempted assault, and felony destruction of property, but no motive has been specified.
Richard has a theory about who may have arranged his beating. He said Porter’s uncle is a former county circuit clerk who was recently convicted in federal court after pleading guilty to paying kickbacks to a local coal mine operator. Ojeda said he’s “sure there is a connection.”
Without providing details, Richard also noted that he’s angered a lot of local people while running for office.
“Ever since I’ve come home, I’ve been bringing forth issues and have angered quite a few people. These people despise me because I call them out on their garbage.”
Ojeda also noted that it will take “more than getting clobbered to silence me.” He wants a federal investigation into his attack, which he hopes will lead to an investigation “all over these parts.”
Although he’s still confined to a hospital bed, Richard wants to get out and campaign next week. His opponent, incumbent Art Kirkendoll, has also denied involvement in Ojeda’s attack.
“I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned violence. It has no place in our political campaigns or in our communities.”
[Image via tarapong srichaiyos/Shutterstock]