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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Legislative candidate Jiles has court record, tells his side

Challenger to Harris was subject of two restraining orders, convicted of misdemeanor assault

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: September 30, 2018, 6:00am

Damion Jiles, a Democratic candidate for the Legislature, has been the subject of two restraining orders sought by two different women, and was convicted of misdemeanor assault, according to a review of court records by The Columbian.

Court records show that Jiles has also had other cases in the legal system, including driving under the influence, having a vehicle repossessed and other traffic-related offenses.

Jiles, who is challenging four-term Republican state Rep. Paul Harris, said that he went through two difficult divorces and never assaulted either of his former wives.

“I can’t speak for what voters should be concerned with,” Jiles said. “It’s in my past. I’ve been really open about it.”

The restraining orders and assault conviction are all more than a decade old. Jiles said that his contact with the court system hasn’t kept him from work or community engagement. He’s been able to maintain federal security clearance and pass background checks required to get jobs at three federal agencies, he said, and coach a youth basketball team.

Both his adult daughter and current partner describe healthy, loving relationships with Jiles.

Messy divorces

Records obtained by The Columbian show that in the early and mid-2000s, Jiles was subject to two different temporary restraining orders.

On Dec. 15, 2000, his wife at the time filed a petition for an order for protection in Pierce County Superior Court against him. In the petition, she alleged that after drinking all day, Jiles screamed at, threatened and pushed her. The petition states that he had previously pushed her through a window.

The court granted a temporary restraining order, but it was not extended. Records include a response from Jiles stating that while he disagreed with the order, he followed it.

Jiles told The Columbian that the allegations in the order are false.

He said that his former wife made them up to gain leverage in their divorce and to get custody of their daughter. At the time, he was serving in the U.S. Army, he said, and was living on Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. He said that had an incident occurred on the base, military police would have been involved, and he would have been “locked up.”

Jiles served in the Texas Army National Guard from 1993 to 1994 and the U.S. Army from 1994 to 2005, according to Army records, which didn’t state if his discharge was less than honorable.

The restraining order mentions the couple’s child, Madison. Now 19, Madison Jiles said she supports her father’s version of events and added that her father was never abusive and doesn’t even raise his voice.

“My dad is the best dad anyone could ever have, and I mean that with all my heart,” Madison Jiles said.

After completing the divorce, Damion Jiles said, he remarried in 2002. That marriage also became rocky.

According to a clerk in Auburn Municipal Court, Jiles was found guilty of fourth-degree misdemeanor assault. The circumstances of Jiles’ conviction are unclear. The court did not have records describing the incident or the penalties Jiles faced because it occurred before 2005. Jiles said he’s tried unsuccessfully to obtain the records himself.

Jiles said that his wife pursued the misdemeanor assault charge brought against him in 2003. He said he never assaulted her and pleaded not guilty to the charge. He didn’t hire a lawyer, he said, because of the expense and also because he thought the court would recognize his innocence. He said he missed a hearing, however, and was found guilty.

“I’ve never felt right about the way the case went,” Jiles said. “At the time, I didn’t know about due process. I knew I had been screwed; I didn’t know how.”

Jiles said he paid the fines and completed probation, and the incident doesn’t show up on a background check. He said he had to pass a background check to be a volunteer coach for the Vancouver Flames, a youth basketball team. Brandon Richardson, director of the team, confirmed that Jiles passed the background check.

In 2004, divorce proceedings between Jiles and his then-wife were initiated in King County. According to court records obtained by The Columbian, Jiles’ wife filed a petition for a domestic violence restraining order against him on Aug. 16, 2005, in King County Superior Court.

In the petition, she alleged that Jiles had threatened “to do harm to me(,) to finish me off.” The order was approved and another hearing was set for Aug. 30, 2005, when the order was reissued.

When asked about the order, Jiles said it “doesn’t ring a bell.” But he said he suspects it was a baseless order filed out of spite by his former wife.

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Neither of Jiles’ former wives could be reached for comment.

Jackie Scott, Jiles’ current partner of 15 years, described him as being supportive, caring, generous and never abusive.

“I wouldn’t be here (with him) if he was,” she said.

Elizabeth Christy, a local family law attorney, said that petitioners seeking these orders have to sign a sworn declaration that they feel threatened. She said judges and court commissioners process a large number of these petitions and are adept at reading them critically.

“They are not easy to get,” she said. But she also said it’s not unheard of for one party to file a restraining order to get leverage in a divorce.

Court records also show traffic offenses on Jiles’ record, including reckless driving in 2004. In 2011, Jiles was convicted of driving under the influence in Benton County. Jiles said he completed the terms of his sentence.

In 2005, a debt collector filed a suit against Jiles and “Jane Doe Jiles” for an unpaid debt on a GMC Envoy. Jiles said that he let his most recent wife have the vehicle, and she allowed it to be repossessed.

Political implications?

Jiles said that part of the reason he’s running for office is because black men are disproportionately arrested and charged with crimes, often on questionable allegations.

In Washington, candidates can pick the party preference they want to appear next to their name on the ballot. Other states give local parties more control of which candidates can run under their banner.

“David Madore could go out and file as a Democrat, and we don’t have any say over it,” said Rich Rogers, chair of the Clark County Democrats, referencing the former Republican Clark County councilor.

He said that the county party can endorse a candidate and give them access to resources, which he said Clark County Democrats have done with Jiles.

Rogers added that he was unaware of Jiles’ court record and that he would seek better vetting of candidates.

Jiles has been endorsed by Clark County Democratic Women. Katie Jolma, the group’s president, said that they were looking into Jiles’ background.

Jacob Nierenberg contributed to this report.

Columbian political reporter