PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Fresh from an election victory over challenger Aerion Abney, PA Rep. Jake Wheatley faces a summary harassment charge for an alleged altercation with Abney campaign worker Kyle Stewart, of Churchill, outside a polling place at the Roosevelt Arms Apartments, a 191-unit apartment building in Downtown Pittsburgh.
“When he approached me and he continued to chest bump me, and he chest bumped me into a vehicle, physically,” Stewart said on Tuesday. “That’s when I needed to call the authorities.”
“Representative Wheatley is going to be charged with summary harassment,” Blaine Jones, Wheatley’s attorney, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
Jones says although this charge is less than a misdemeanor, like a traffic ticket, Wheatley is not guilty and will fight it.
“We’re taking it very seriously. We’re investigating it. We already have calls out to various witnesses, and we are prepared to defend him in court,” said Jones. “It is our opinion that this gentleman is being dishonest, and we’re going to prove that in court.”
Stewart once worked in Wheatley’s office and was fired, sources say, and some observers say it was Stewart who was aggressive, at least with voters.
“He was a little bit more aggressive than you’d expect a campaign worker to be,” Josh Rex, a Downtown resident, said.
Rex voted at the Roosevelt Arms and said Stewart was blocking the entrance to confront voters.
“I heard him aggressively addressing other voters as they were trying to come in, and it just felt kind of weird to me,” Rex said.
KDKA’s Jon Delano spoke to the judge of elections of the polling place, who did not witness the altercation.
But the election official did say that Stewart did have strong words with the Wheatley volunteers, and at one point, he came into the voting area and handed out campaign literature for his candidate.
The judge of elections says he promptly threw Stewart out because you are not allowed to campaign inside a polling place.
Whatever Stewart’s actions, it’s Wheatley’s conduct that police have targeted, perhaps influenced by accusations that Wheatley assaulted his fiance in a domestic dispute six years ago.
“Representative Wheatley had his day in court, and the charges were withdrawn, and we’re extremely happy about that,” said Jones, who represented Wheatley in that action, too.
As for this charge, no word yet on a court hearing.