The ex-spokesman for a Republican group says he's been harassed since declaring his candidacy.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Richard Duffett says the police and the press have got him all wrong.
Duffett of Austintown, former spokesman for Republicans for Real Reform, was arrested on drug charges just days before announcing his candidacy for 21st Precinct Republican committeeman. He said the dope and related paraphernalia found in his car weren't his, and that despite press stories to the contrary, he never planned to challenge Clarence Smith for the chairmanship of the Mahoning County Republican Party.
Duffett made those statements during a press conference Saturday at the Republicans for Real Reform headquarters, 1315 Boardman-Canfield Road.
"The attempt to undermine the Republicans for Real Reform movement should not be tolerated by Republican voters who truly want to make a positive change for the Valley," Duffett said.
Republicans for Real Reform was formed by Mark A. Hanni, son of Atty. Don Hanni Jr., a former Mahoning County Democratic Party chief.
Because of the allegations levied against him, Duffett resigned as spokesman of the group but insisted he will remain a candidate for precinct committeeman.
Duffett was arrested in the wee hours of April 10 after Boardman police discovered a small amount of suspected marijuana and two marijuana pipes inside his car after stopping him for allegedly running a traffic light on Southern Boulevard.
According to police reports, Duffett was also driving under suspension.
"I am confident that I will be totally exonerated of all the charges," Duffett continued. "The small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia was not mine. As a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former naval officer, truthfulness and integrity are the benchmarks of my character."
When asked if he knew who the drug paraphernalia belonged to and how it got in his car, Duffett said he and his attorney are looking into it and will disclose what they know as part of his defense.
"I'd like to bring everything out now, but I have to listen to my attorney, Mike Rich," Duffett said.
Was it planted?
Since he announced his candidacy for committeeman, Duffett said, he has received several threatening telephone calls, notes have been left on his car, and one of his tires was slashed. He said someone also scratched the paint on his car.
Although he did not make formal reports of these situations to the police, Duffett said he did report it to a "detective friend" who is investigating. The friend, Duffett said, is a member of a local police force; he declined to be more specific.
A few hours before his arrest, Duffett said he had been at a Republicans for Real Reform meeting at the Bull & amp; Bear Tavern in Boardman.
Does he think the contraband was planted in his car during the meeting?
"I'll address that later. Like I said, I have to listen to my attorney."
Duffett most recently made his living as a substitute teacher but was fired, he said, "because of all the publicity" surrounding his arrest and candidacy. He said he has also worked as a special education teacher and a baseball and football coach.
Duffett worked for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. for five years as a volunteer on a committee screening students seeking nominations to military academies.
Duffett is a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Francis Hammond.
He is also circulating a petition supporting Traficant and urging him to run as an independent.
"Don't be surprised if I run for Congress in two years," he added.