PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One of the Democrats running to succeed Congressman Jim Langevin was arrested in Ohio earlier this week on stalking and drug charges, Target 12 has learned.
Michael Neary — a political unknown in Rhode Island who previously worked for Ohio Gov. John Kasich — was arrested in the township of Elizabeth, Ohio, at about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday. He was charged with menacing by stalking, possession of marijuana and marijuana drug paraphernalia.
The 28-year-old pleaded not guilty the same day and was later released on bail, according to court records, which show he gave his address as an apartment in Columbus, Ohio.
Neary did not immediately return a phone call Friday afternoon.
According to the court complaint obtained by Target 12, Neary was arrested after a married couple called 911 “scared for their life,” reporting that a car had been following them from the airport in Columbus to Troy, Ohio, which is about 60 miles away.
The couple said Neary’s vehicle was closely following their car, matching their speed and flashing his lights at them.
“The reporting party did not have a clue who this person was once we stopped him,” Lt. Chris Bobb of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office told Target 12. “As far as I know, the suspect didn’t know the reporting party, either.”
When questioned by deputies, Bobb said Neary told the officers he’d just returned from visiting Rhode Island where he was “running for a political position.” He told officers he’d been staying in Rhode Island with his parents and had a “big argument” before traveling back to Ohio, which made him “very stressed and drained.”
Neary initially told the officers he wanted to go for a drive to “clear his head.” Bobb said Neary told them he thought he recognized the vehicle, which was the only other one on the roadway during the early-morning hours.
Troy is “kind of off the beaten path,” Bobb explained.
But Bobb said Neary’s story subsequently changed, and he told officers he didn’t know the driver, but was “drawn to the Ohio registration” on the back of their car. Bobb said Neary then gave officers consent to search his car, which is when they found plastic baggies containing marijuana inside a plastic container in the front seat, according to the report, along with a ceramic pipe and grinder. (Possession of marijuana and paraphernalia are illegal in Ohio.)
The report says Neary “admitted to smoking the marijuana.” Deputies also found a half empty bottle of whiskey in the back seat, the documents state.
Neary was arrested and held at the Miami County Jail until he was arraigned and released.
Neary has said he grew up in Coventry and West Warwick but more recently was living in Ohio. He worked for Kasich when the Republican was running for president in 2016 and later in the governor’s office, according to a campaign biography.
In the weeks since Neary announced his interest in the 2nd District seat, he has sent a steady series of news releases to reporters and also been active on social media. He has not posted any messages to Twitter since Tuesday, the day before his arrest.
In an interview with 12 News earlier this month, Neary was asked whether he had moved back to Rhode Island from Ohio yet. “I am living here once again,” he replied, adding, “I’m not moving home to lose this.”
“My parents live in the same house still, so I’ve always been a Rhode Islander no matter where I’ve lived,” Neary said. “A lot of people move from Washington to move back home to run for office. I like to say at least I’m moving back home from another state and not necessarily from Washington.”
Neary is due back in court in Ohio on April 21 for a pre-trial conference hearing.
Neary is part of a crowded field of Democrats who have filed to run in the 2nd Congressional District primary since Langevin announced his retirement in January. The others are Omar Bah, Joy Fox, Seth Magaziner, Cameron Moquin, Sarah Morgenthau and David Segal.
An eighth Democratic candidate, Ed Pacheco, dropped out of the race earlier this week. Three Republicans — Jessica de la Cruz, Allan Fung and Bob Lancia — are also running.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook