Jack Shepard, the perennial political candidate and convicted felon who’s lived in Rome for 30 years after fleeing the U.S. when he was charged with arson, is suing the Huffington Post for an article that called him an arsonist.
He’ll be on the ballot again this year, running against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the Aug. 14 DFL primary.
Shepard has run repeatedly for House and Senate seats, always in absentia, because he risks arrest if he returns to the United States. His main publicity in the races tends to be media reports about his record and exile.
But he’s suing HuffPo for a 2010 article that called him an arsonist and said he was kicked off the ballot in 2004 for being a fugitive felon.
He’s not been convicted of arson but was charged with it in 1982, after a fire was set above his Minneapolis dental office. That’s when he apparently fled the country.
And while then-Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer tried to take his name off the ballot, it didn’t work. His name was on the ballot, as it has been plenty of times.
So in a $10 million defamation suit filed this week, Shepard maintains the story “almost completely destroyed” his 30-year dental practice in Rome, causing him “great financial hardship.” He said it also might damage his election chances by “impugning my character in the eyes of voters,” reports the Pioneer Press.
Shepard did plead guilty to sexual assault and drug possession in 1979 and 1981, and served time in prison. But he says the charges were overblown and that he was being forced to take lithium for mental health problems at the time. He says he was not adequately defended on the charges.
In a recent email, Shepard said about his convictions:
As a qualified dentist, I had a license to legally possess a schedule II controlled substance and especially had every right to possess those six pain pills that were the drugs that constituted the object of the drug possession conviction charge especially since they were found in my dental office medicine cabinet (where they were stored with other medicines like antibiotics etc which every dentist has). This was not raised by my appointed defense counsel for some inexplicable reason. Consequently, the judge was not made aware of this crucial fact and did not enquire.
The sexual misconduct was based on an incident involving accusations from a drunken girl I picked up after-hours at bar near my house at after 1 AM closing. Under the influence of Lithium and never warned about the fact that and the consequent confusion and fear it generated I was convinced by my attorney not to fight the case and plead guilty to sexual misconduct, the fact that I in the 4th degree. For which I received probation and no publicity in the newspapers that may have harmed my reputation. The fact that I ran long distances every night and suffered constantly from Toxic Lithium shock (confusion, behavioral depression etc., which happens due to the fact that massive dehydration and water loss from excessive exercise causes the Lithium level in your blood to skyrocket and have very damaging effects.
And he wrote:
The effects of the lithium shock due to massive dehydration would increase the Lithium levels in my blood to dangerous levels it was devastating and caused erratic behavior which did not enable me to defend my rights with clarity. These effects have no longer happened in the thirty years since I have ceased the treatment.
It is true that I have been convicted of sexual misconduct. But this was in the fourth degree and did not involve sexual assault of any kind. In addition there was no time served and I was given probation due to the relative lack of seriousness of the charge.
He also sent along a copy of his affidavit for candidacy for the Senate race [JPG], noting that it’s notarized by the U.S. Consul in Rome.