PIKEVILLE — Appalachian News-Express Editor Jerry Boggs said he will not press assault charges against Pikeville Mayor Frank Justice II.
On Wednesday, Boggs filed a criminal complaint with the Pike County attorney's office that said Justice confronted him at a sports bar about a story the newspaper was printing. Boggs said Justice punched him in the face.
"It was a pretty minor thing. I realize the gravity of it given our positions," Boggs told the Herald-Leader on Thursday afternoon.
Boggs and the mayor met Wednesday. Boggs said that the mayor apologized and that he accepted Justice's apology.
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Boggs said he and Justice both wanted "to move forward for the good of the community."
"I've never been on that end of a situation like that," he said.
The complaint that Boggs filed against Justice on Wednesday with Assistant County Attorney Tommy Chamberlin noted that Boggs "advised he wished to wait before he determined whether or not to file charges."
On Tuesday night, Boggs said in a document filed with the Pike County attorney's office, "I was a customer at Champs Sports Bar & Grill on Main Street when Mr. Justice entered the business and asked the employees if they had seen the editor of the Appalachian News-Express."
Boggs said in the complaint, filed Wednesday, that Justice confronted him about a story that appeared in Wednesday's newspaper. Boggs said he asked to discuss the matter civilly, but Justice refused.
The story in question named Justice's business, K.J.C. Restaurant Co. Inc., which operates Jerry's Restaurant, as having donated $2,000 to a political group that ran a racy television ad attacking Pike County Magistrate Chris Harris before the May primary election.
"When I confirmed the information would be in print, Mr. Justice punched me, striking me on the left eye and cheekbone," Boggs said in the criminal complaint.
Employees pulled Justice away, Boggs wrote in the complaint. Justice left saying "this is not over," Boggs said.
Someone called 911, and police responded at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday, according to dispatch reports.
Boggs said Thursday that he thought police handled the situation appropriately. The confrontation at the bar lasted only a few minutes. Police asked him whether he was hurt or needed transportation to a hospital, then they referred him to the county attorney, as they would with any similar assault case, Boggs said.
Justice did not return messages left at his offices or his home.
Champs owner Tommy Hamilton was at the restaurant Tuesday, but — out of respect for the city and for Boggs, his business partner in another venture, the American Basketball Association team East Kentucky Energy — he wouldn't say on Wednesday what he saw.
Hamilton said only: "What happened was inappropriate."
A police dispatch report said Pikeville Officer Timothy Roberts and Sgt. Ricky Younce responded to an assault complaint at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday at Champs. The report did not name the mayor or the editor but described a suspect as wearing a black shirt and riding a bicycle.
Younce said that because the complaint involved a "simple assault" with minor injuries that an officer did not witness, they ruled it a misdemeanor and referred Boggs to the county attorney. It's up to the victim in a misdemeanor assault to decide whether to press charges, Younce said.
Justice's company helped pay for a television ad with racy images of a stripper's behind, criticizing Harris' spending on hotel rooms and bar tabs as an officer and board member for the Kentucky Association of Counties. Harris denied the accusations that he was involved in the spending, which has been investigated by the state auditor's office.
The ad was yanked from the airwaves by Hazard TV station WYMT but was broadcast by InterMountain and Suddenlink cable stations.
Election finance filings by Citizens for Eastern Kentucky Government, which lists a Louisville mailing address, say the group also received $2,500 from The Law Office of Ray Jones & Bill Hickman; $1,500 from RM Johnson Engineering in Hindman; $3,000 from Rayne Ash LLC in Corbin; $2,500 from MGC Supplies Inc. in Dorton; $2,000 from Thomas Smith of Thomas Consulting of Corbin; $1,000 from bookkeeper Patricia Litafik in Phelps; $15,000 from Utility Management Group, which operates Pike County's Mountain Water District; and $500 from UMG's president, Greg May.
Ray Jones, a state senator, does legal work for UMG. Harris, Pike's 6th District magistrate, was highly critical of UMG's operation of the water utility in the past year.
Unauthorized campaign groups are a kind of election committee that can support or oppose particular candidates but can't work in concert with a candidate. At least one donor to Citizens for Eastern Kentucky Government, Litafik, also donated to Harris' primary opponent, Gary Thacker.
Thacker lost the race despite outspending Harris by nearly $13,500.
The News-Express reported that Justice said, through City Manager Donovan Blackburn, that he donated to the campaign group because "Harris has not been a friend to the city," which also is a customer of UMG.