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Pr. William Delegate Lashes Out Over Opponent's Mailer

Sandhya Somashekhar

You know Election Day is approaching when things get this ugly. Late last week, Republican House of Delegates candidate Rich Anderson sent out a mailer to voters that dropped a bombshell about his opponent, Del. Paul Nichols (D-Prince William). Nichols, it said, had been arrested in North Carolina in 2006 for assaulting a police officer, and it implied that Nichols may have been intoxicated at the time.

Problem is, the mailer failed to note that a judge dropped the charges against Nichols, who has said it was the police officer who got aggressive with him when he came to the aid of a friend who had been pulled over. The mailer, which called Nichols "A Different Kind of 'Slugger,'" also included excerpts of a police report that displayed Nichols's Social Security number. In addition, a judge in September of this year granted Nichols's request that the documents be expunged.

Anderson's campaign has defended the mailer, saying voters deserved to know that the arrest occurred. But on a campaign stop in Occoquan yesterday, Nichols accused his opponent of overstepping the bounds of acceptable behavior and said he was contemplating legal action against the Republican.

"I was attacked physically by a police officer. I was wrongfully charged. The case was dismissed, and now I'm being attacked and wrongfully accused in my county where I have lived for 31 years," he told reporters. "And on top of all this, his recklessness and irresponsibility of sending a mailer out with all my personal data, he might as well have pulled down my pants."

Anderson's campaign manager, Reece Collins, was unrepentant today. He said the campaign properly obtained what had previously been a public record, by sending someone out to Dare County to obtain it. And he said it wasn't the campaign's fault that the documents happened to include Nichols's home number, age, weight, home phone number, Social Security number (listed in the wrong box) and other information.

"If he didn't want his information released, he probably shouldn't have assaulted a police officer," said Collins, adding that the campaign has consulted a lawyer and it is on solid legal ground.

The story was first reported by the News and Messenger, which has more detail on the incident.

By Sandhya Somashekhar  |  October 13, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Campaign Ads , Election 2009 , General Assembly 2009 , Sandhya Somashekhar  
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As a lawyer, Nichols should have known better than to have gotten out of the car in the first place. If you have been pulled over (or as in this case are in a car following another one that has been pulled over), you should remain in your vehicle unless an officer asks you to step out of the car. While in your car, you should keep your hands visible (if you are the driver, keep your hands on the steering wheel). All of these are simple tips that help officers to concentrate on the situation at hand and not have to worry about a secondary threat to their safety. Even if you are a lawyer, you do not rush to try and insert yourself into this situation. There is no indication that Nichols’ friend had retained him as his attorney nor had asked police for counsel. A wiser course of action would have been to sit tight and wait for his friend to make such a request of the police.

None of this is to defend what the police did to Nichols, but without a doubt his own impetuous actions brought the situation upon him.

Posted by: JTR555 | October 14, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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