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Domestic violence allegations against San Diego Democratic Party leader come to light

San Diego County Democratic Party chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy speaks at an Election Night party, March 3, 2020.
Andi Dukleth
San Diego County Democratic Party chairman Will Rodriguez-Kennedy speaks at an Election Night party, March 3, 2020.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party who is on leave after recently being accused of sexual assault, was also the subject of a temporary domestic violence restraining order in 2012, according to court records reviewed by KPBS.

The temporary restraining order, which was dissolved after six weeks, was granted based on a sworn statement from an ex-boyfriend, who said Rodriguez-Kennedy subjected him to repeated physical and verbal abuse.

Rodriguez-Kennedy denies those accusations and provided KPBS with a police report he filed against the ex-boyfriend months prior in which he accused him of battery. Neither party appears to have been arrested over the accusations.

A KPBS reporter was unable to contact the ex-boyfriend, whom KPBS is not identifying due to the nature of the accusations and because he is not a public figure.

The incident in the police report includes a statement from Rodriguez-Kennedy describing an altercation on July 20, 2012. Rodriguez-Kennedy told police he went to an apartment complex in North Park to speak with his then boyfriend, who he said "appeared extremely intoxicated."

"Because (he) was ignoring me, I grabbed his arm as he walked past me so I could speak with him," Rodriguez-Kennedy said in his statement. "As I grabbed (his) arm he lost his balance and fell to the ground. (He) became extremely angry and began accusing me of pushing him to the ground. (He) got to his feet, charged me and punched me in the face with a closed fist."

"In an attempt to get (him) off me I pushed him with both hands backwards," the statement continues. "After pushing (him) he came after me a second time and began punching me in the face again. … I left the apartment complex and called police to report the incident."

The police report states Rodriguez-Kennedy "had no visible injuries and refused medical treatment." The police officer also states: "Rodriguez informed me there has been one incident of domestic violence in the past, however it was not reported."

Restraining order

The court records related to the temporary restraining order taken out by the ex-boyfriend against Rodriguez-Kennedy describe another altercation three weeks later.

According to the ex-boyfriend's sworn statement, Rodriguez-Kennedy came home drunk on Aug. 10, 2012 and accused him of cheating, which he denied. Rodriguez-Kennedy then cornered him in the bathtub, kneeled on the back of his neck, pulled his hair, poked him in the right eye and strangled him with his forearm for about five seconds, according to the statement.

The ex-boyfriend said he managed to escape by jumping off the second-floor balcony, which resulted in an ankle injury. He said he then slept at a bus stop for the night.

"I did not call the police because I thought that if they arrested (Rodriguez-Kennedy), I would not have a place to live," the statement says. "I returned the next day. (Rodriguez-Kennedy) did not remember what had happened the previous day. His excuse was that he was drunk. (Rodriguez-Kennedy) apologized for hurting me."

In a statement to KPBS, Rodriguez-Kennedy said:

"Nearly 10 years ago I was the victim of multiple incidences of domestic violence with my ex-partner. I reported at least one incident to the San Diego Police Department. It appears, as is common in situations of domestic violence that my ex attempted to use the court system to abuse me. I was unaware of this until recently. …

From what (the statement) says I said, to what it says I did, these actions are not mine and anyone who knows me well would tell you that they are not in line with my character. Both me and my ex have long moved on with our lives and put this behind us. He is a private person and I hope that people will respect his privacy."

Court documents include a photo of the ex-boyfriend's face after the alleged incident, but it is a photocopy that is too dark to make out any signs of abuse.

In his statement, the man also accuses Rodriguez-Kennedy of showing up at his new address and making false social media accounts "to try to spy on me."

"I fear for my safety because he has been trying to get in contact with me and that he wants me back," the statement says. "But I feel that it is a show for his revenge and that he is trying to control and manipulate me. Our relationship is over and I want to move on."

The ex-boyfriend signed the statement under penalty of perjury on Oct. 1, 2012. Judge Christine K. Goldsmith granted the temporary restraining order on Oct. 3, 2012 and set a hearing date for Oct. 23, 2012.

The ex-boyfriend appeared at that hearing, but Rodriguez-Kennedy did not. Court records show San Diego sheriff's deputies made six visits to Rodriguez-Kennedy's apartment to serve him with a summons, but none was successful. At one of the visits, Rodriguez-Kennedy's roommate told deputies he was out of town "for at least two weeks" with an unknown return date.

Neither Rodriguez-Kennedy nor his ex-boyfriend showed up to the rescheduled hearing on Nov. 14, 2012, after which Judge Margo L. Lewis dissolved the temporary restraining order.

New allegations

The more recent accusations against Rodriguez-Kennedy by another man surfaced in a May 4 Facebook post from activist Tasha Williamson, who had counseled and advised the accuser, also an ex-boyfriend. Williamson said the accuser told her Rodriguez-Kennedy had sex with him while he was drunk and incapable of giving consent. The accuser has not yet come forward publicly.

On May 6, Rodriguez-Kennedy posted to Facebook denying the accusations and announcing he would take a leave of absence from his position as chair of the county Democratic Party while its ethics committee investigates the matter.

The party's bylaws state the committee shall conduct an "initial review" of accusations against a member within 14 days, after which it has another 30 days to make a recommendation to the party's executive board.

Eva Posner, a spokesperson for the party, said Rodriguez-Kennedy is still on leave from his position and that the inquiry had not yet concluded because law enforcement had not finished its review.

"The internal investigation process requires the information from the conclusion of the ongoing law enforcement investigation, and as such is still ongoing and cannot be commented on further," Posner said.

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