The West Virginia Senate candidate who was attacked at a cookout over the weekend said Monday that he’s known his alleged assailant since they were kids.
Jonathan Porter, 41, faces charges of malicious assault, attempt to commit a felony and destruction of property in the beating of Richard Ojeda, who’s running against state Sen. Art Kirkendoll, D-Logan, in today’s Democratic primary.
Ojeda said he was at a cookout in the Whitman area of Logan County at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday when Porter, whom he hadn’t seen in years, attacked him.
Porter, who lives in the Whitman Creek area, turned himself in around 6 p.m. Sunday, according to State Police Trooper Z.S. Holden.
In an interview from his hospital room at Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital on Monday, Ojeda said Porter showed up at the cookout and told the candidate he wanted a bumper sticker.
“I’ve known him since I was like around 7,” Ojeda said. “We grew up in the same hollow.”
Ojeda, who spent 24 years in the U.S. Army, said he stuck a bumper sticker on the back of Porter’s truck, then Porter said he wanted a bumper sticker on the front of his truck, too.
“I didn’t realize, what he was doing was luring me around to the other side of the truck, where he could be blocked [from] everyone at the picnic,” Ojeda said.
Ojeda said that when he knelt over to place the bumper sticker on the truck, Porter repeatedly kicked him in the head, then got something out of the truck. Other people at the cookout told him they saw Porter hit him in the head with brass knuckles. Another person thought Porter used a hammer.
“All I know is, I woke up with my head on a tree stump covered in blood and I just kept going in and out of consciousness until I got to the hospital,” Ojeda said.
People at the picnic also told Ojeda that Porter tried to run him over with his truck. They said Porter fled after striking two side-by-side vehicles.
Ojeda said he believes the attack was politically motivated. Since he hadn’t spoken to Porter in years, he believes someone else put Porter up to it.
“I can’t accuse anybody directly; I don’t have the facts,” Ojeda said, “but I will tell you I don’t see any other reason why this would happen, other than it being political.”
He said he has been very vocal about the sentences for those involved in the Mountain Laurel Mining Complex kickback scheme, including that of Alvis Porter, Jonathan Porter’s uncle.
In May 2014, prosecutors charged 10 people in what they described as a widespread scheme that forced companies to pay kickbacks to obtain contracts at the mine.
David Runyon, the general manager, was charged with one count each of extortion and tax evasion. Alvis Porter, of Holden, a former Logan County circuit clerk and the owner and operator of Southern Construction, was charged with failing to pay trust-fund taxes of his employees. He also admitted to paying about $400,000 in kickbacks to Runyon.
In February 2015, Porter was sentenced to three years probation for failing to pay employment taxes. He also agreed to forfeit $350,000 and pay the IRS nearly $27,000.
“It shows that we have a double standard,” Ojeda said. “These people who are rich and powerful and politically connected are able to get away with anything.”
Alvis Porter’s wife, Nikki, recently donated $1,000 to Kirkendoll’s re-election campaign, according to financial disclosures. Jonathan Porter’s brother, Harold, is running as a Democrat for Logan County assessor.
Ojeda said he is known for being vocal about corruption in Logan County.
He also has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Logan County Commission. On Sunday morning, he posted images he said were of the FOIA documents, and wrote “come Tuesday, remember how my opponent [Kirkendoll] has been charging the Logan County commission a consulting fee for years to the tune of $2,500 a month.”
Kirkendoll served as a Logan County commissioner for 30 years before becoming a state senator.
“I speak out when I see something wrong,” Ojeda said. “I was brought up to believe, if you walk past something that’s wrong and you don’t comment, you’ve just created a lower standard.”
Ojeda suffered eight fractures and three lacerations to his face. He said he will need cheekbone surgery later this week.
He’s still sore, and dizzy when he stands up, but he says, “I’m fine.”
He left the hospital later Monday.
“I want people to see my face,” he said. “I want people to see me. I want people to see me and know that I’m still in this.”
The State Police is investigating the incident.
Holden, the lead investigator, said he believes Porter turned himself in because he knew there were witnesses. Holden said he doesn’t know if the attack was politically motivated. He said Porter chose not to give any statements while in custody.
He said he hopes to know more by getting in touch with Porter’s lawyer and arranging an interview.
“The investigation is still pending, at this time,” Holden said. “I don’t have any leads, though.”
Reached Monday, Kirkendoll, who represents the Senate’s 7th District, said he has seldom spoken to Jonathan Porter.
“I haven’t seen him two times in two years,” Kirkendoll said. “I’m never around him.”
Kirkendoll said he doesn’t condone violence.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said of the attack. “I would not ever, ever want anything like that to happen to anybody, whether it was my opponent or not.”
Kirkendoll added that he hasn’t slung any mud Ojeda’s way during the campaign.
“I never bother anybody, and don’t intend to bother anybody,” Kirkendoll said.
Staff writer Eric Eyre contributed to this report.