What Rape?

No one ever accused Damon Jones of sexual assault. But that's not how the media played it.

When he woke up last Wednesday, Cavs guard Damon Jones was the most booed athlete in Cleveland ["Always Open," March 8]. By day's end, he was also a pervert.

"Jones implicated in sexual assault," a Plain Dealer headline announced. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that a 23-year-old Arizona woman, who recently visited Cleveland, alleged that Jones "committed a sexual offense against her." On TV and radio, Jones was suddenly Captain Perv, left to deny the "false accusations."

But the media frenzy confused police. Chandler, Arizona Sergeant Rick Griner says he never told reporters that the woman accused Jones of anything, though he hasn't seen his detectives' report on the matter.

Westlake Captain Guy Turner has, which is why he's gone out of his way not to implicate Jones. He says the woman simply states that she went clubbing in Cleveland, crashed at a house in Westlake, and woke up with "bodily discomfort." When she got home to Arizona, she went to the hospital.

"This woman basically has not complained of a sexual offense taking place in Westlake," says Turner.

Late last week, The PD backed off its initial story, changing the headline on the internet version to "Jones questioned in sexual assault."

By Turner's standards, it was too late. "We haven't used the word witness, we haven't used the word suspect, we haven't used the word bystander," Turner says. "Have some places made kind of a leap of faith in calling him a suspect? Yes. But it didn't come from us. There's reputations at stake here."

Uncle Tom's democracy
Secretary of State Uncle Tom Blackwell did his best to suppress the vote in the 2004 election, going so far as to limit the paper stock new registrations could be submitted on. Now he's found a sure-fire way to keep the vote down: brazen incompetence.

Last fall, the Summit County Board of Elections reached a stalemate when shopping for new voting machines. Democrats wanted the touch-screen machines; Republicans wanted optical scanners. Blackwell stepped in to break the tie, naturally siding with the GOP.

Uncle Tom was blasted for partisanship, which he firmly denied, claiming that optical scanners were more efficient. He conveniently ignored the fact that he'd chosen touch-screen machines in other counties.

This month, the county began testing its new machines, only to discover that they have a 30 percent failure rate.

So come November, vote early and often. It's the only way to ensure that your vote counts.

All Noe's friends
Speaking of Blackwell, he's unearthed another embarrassing link between Attorney General Jim Petro and bribery poster boy Tom Noe. Uncle Tom's blog includes an invitation for Noe's 50th birthday party and roast, held August 24, 2004. The invite is illustrated with a mock coin in the likeness of Noe, the coin dealer who looted the state of $50 million in not-so-rare coins.

Among the politicians in attendance were Governor Bob Taft and Petro, who, along with Auditor Betty Montgomery, was singled out for a "special tribute."

The blog goes out of its way to note that "Ken Blackwell was not invited and did not attend."

Kook alert!
The Taliban have come to Ohio.

Merrill Keiser Jr., a trucker facing Sherrod Brown in the Democratic Senate primary, recently told a Toledo television station that he believes homosexuality should be a felony, punishable by death.

"Just like we have laws against murder, we have laws against stealing, we have laws against taking drugs -- we should have laws against immoral conduct," Keiser said.

So Punch called Brown for his response to this most pressing issue. Kill the homos: yea or nay?

"The ballot box should never be used as a pulpit for hate," replied spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler. "Sherrod is proud to be leading the charge for social and economic justice across Ohio."

Sounds like fag talk to Punch.

Fully loaded
Beginning Friday, the Beck Center will stage The Full Monty, the tale of out-of-work laborers who turn to stripping. Among the six guys who will be getting naked for the Lakewood performance is Cleveland cop Elliott Hooper, who plays stripper Noah "Horse" Simmons. "They call him Horse because he's got this big shmank, supposedly," Hooper helpfully points out.

It's the First District patrolman's first gig without clothing, and his boys from the station have cleared their schedules for opening night. "They're just pumped," he says. "They can't wait."

California heat
When Summit County Executive James McCarthy hired 23-year-old Chrissy Congrove as the new director of animal control, taxpayers deluged the county boss with accusations of cronyism.

Chrissy is the daughter of county Councilman Dan Congrove, and the $61,000 job was never posted for other applicants. Critics ripped her lack of experience, noting that the executive assistant -- read: secretary -- to the county safety director got a 75 percent pay raise when she was promoted.

McCarthy wasn't bothered by the locals who hammered him. But he wasn't pleased by out-of-staters who got uppity. On the Beacon Journal's Ohio.com message board, Tiffanie Hauger of Burbank, California, posted two scathing e-mails she received from McCarthy after she contacted him about his hiring practices.

"You have been sucking too much smog," McCarthy wrote her. "I'm just a Midwest hick trying to understand how a former Akronite got to be sooooo smart by living in a smog haze. What besides hydrocarbons is in the air that makes people so perceptive in BURBANK?"

McCarthy defends his rather unique public-relations techniques. "It was the fact that she took a hit at Akron," he tells Punch. "If you're gonna hit my city, I'm gonna hit you. . . I'm not gonna apologize for telling off someone from California who can't get their facts straight."

McCarthy further defends Chrissy's hiring. "If we want to keep young people in Akron, we've got to give them jobs," he says. "I really like her. She's smart as hell. I had two idiots in there before her, and she came to me saying she was the one who could get the job done. I figured I'd give her a shot. She'll prove everyone wrong."

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