Schmidt v. Krikorian Case Gets Heard, Delayed Until October


By Thomas C. Nash

Mirror-Spectator Staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A long-awaited September 3 Ohio Elections Commission hearing relating to charges of Armenian Genocide denial by an Armenian American candidate against an incumbent US House Rep. ended with no decision, leaving the case continued to October 1.

Republican Jean Schmidt, who represents Ohio’s second district, filed false claims charges against 2008 independent challenger David Krikorian in April shortly after he announced he would run for the seat as a Democrat in 2010.

In the 2008 election season, Krikorian accused Schmidt of taking “blood money” to “deny the genocide of Christian Armenians by Muslim Turks” as a co-chair of the Caucus on US Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans.

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In November, just before the election, Krikorian wrote, “The people of Ohio’s second district will, if they elect [Schmidt] on November 4th, condone her denial of the Genocide of 1.5 million Christians. And, in so doing, be guilty of a crime against humanity as the cover-up is just as bad as the crime … Jean Schmidt MUST GO and WE the people must do it. Because you are Americans and because you are human beings and because you are Christians.”

In an exchange with Krikorian in 2007, before he entered the race, a Schmidt staff member said the Rep. was not comfortable supporting the Armenian Genocide resolution. Schmidt has since maintained the position, authoring a column that ran in April in the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman stating Congress should not debate the issue.

The Ohio Elections Commission, an appointed body consisting of seven voting members, heard five false claims charges from the Schmidt legal team, which includes Washington heavyweight and resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) Bruce Fein.

Krikorian is being defended by a legal team that includes Mark Geragos. Krikorian said his team began the hearing by arguing that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the case because it involves a federal election.

“There’s absolutely no authority from our perspective for [the OEC] to even be facilitating this complaint,” Krikorian said after the hearing. “It’s a clear first amendment issue”

In an interview, Schmidt attorney Donald Brey responded that the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) only has initial jurisdiction when federal law preempts state law.

“The FEC does not have a false statements statute,” he said. “[Krikorian] can make the argument, but it’s never been successful.”

During the nearly seven-hour hearing, Krikorian said much of the back and forth between the two camps related to where the $30,000 Krikorian stated Schmidt took from the Turkish government really came from.

“[Schmidt’s] the one alleging we made false statements, but at the same time here’s the ultimate problem: there is no canceled check from the government of Turkey in Jean Schmidt’s campaign account,” Krikorian said. “If that’s the standard of truth, then we can’t prevail. But everybody knows these [political action committees] are pushing the Turkish campaign of denial.”

When the hearing reconvenes on October 1, Krikorian said he hopes to have FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds appear to give testimony on her knowledge of the influence Turkey wields in Congress in person. Edmonds broke a Justice Department gag order imposed in 2002 in order to give a deposition for the case in August.

Kirkorian said also wants to call Schmidt’s chief of staff, Barry Bennett, to the stand.

The witnesses, he said, will show that his claims regarding the Turkish government’s influence on Schmidt are accurate.

“For anyone to claims the Turkish PACs are not sponsored by the Turkish government is laughable,” Kirkorian said. “My hope is the OEC has the intellectual ability to look at the facts.”

Brey, however, said he was confident that the commission would rule in favor of Schmidt.

“We hope that [Krikorian] will be found to have made false statements and that the OEC will sanction him,” Brey said.

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