Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Politics

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.

Both allegations came after Democrat Amy Kedron filed to run for office in May, records show.

That month, Matthew Knisley accused Kedron of throwing a water-filled glass at him and smashing a $2,000 guitar, according to a sheriff’s report and a petition for a stalking injunction. He also claimed she pinned him on a bed, "repeatedly" struck him on the buttocks and that she jumped up and down on him while holding him on the floor.

She has also accused him of abuse. He was arrested but the charge of domestic battery by strangulation was later dropped.

"This is highly, highly traumatic for me," Kedron said, sobbing during a 45-minute interview at her attorney’s office. "I did not commit domestic violence. I did not stalk him. He was trying to destroy my campaign."

Kedron, 42, a former University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor , announced her candidacy for District 6 on May 1 in a Republican–heavy race for the seat that longtime Commissioner John Morroni held since 2000. He died in May.

The Republicans are state Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena, and Barb Haselden, an activist from St. Petersburg.

Kedron, a Buffalo native, earned law and doctoral degrees at the University of Buffalo but has never taken a bar exam to work as an attorney. She had spent years working on social, economic, and environmental issues around the Buffalo business community.

She moved to Florida in 2010 to work as a professor at USF St. Petersburg and Ringling College of Art and Design. During her time in Florida, she has faced two cancer battles.

Since declaring her candidacy, Kedron has raised $22,450 for the contest. While she is currently unemployed, Kedron declared a negative net worth of $278,358 as of December 2017, according to campaign filings.

During an interview in late June with the Tampa Bay Times, Kedron spoke about a loving relationship with her fiance, who she credited for helping her get through her cancer fights. The two met online 18 months earlier and she moved in with Knisley a day after the first date.

• • •

Court records and four sheriff’s reports show relationship troubles surfaced publicly in May.

On May 17, Knisley, crying and distraught, visited the Sheriff’s Office to seek help because Kedron was "physically and mentally abusive." The relationship, he said, deteriorated two months earlier, records show. He offered to pay Kedron $6,000 to move out, but she wanted $10,000 from either him or his mother, according to the report.

Knisley explained that Kedron smashed his guitar and that he "restrained her with a hug, momentarily," to save the guitar. He sought a stalking injunction the next day. A judge approved the request.

When deputies served her with the injunction, she reported that Knisley choked her two weeks earlier. Deputies photographed bruises on her arms, shoulders and legs.

When deputies asked why she didn’t report the abuse, Kedron said she didn’t want it to become public and harm the campaign, records show. Deputies arrested Knisley on May 24. But the charge was dropped after Kedron wouldn’t cooperate with prosecutors. The stalking injunction later expired, records show.

On July 7, Kedron held her first campaign event, which St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman helped kick off.

Eight days later, Knisley told deputies that Kedron was stalking and texting him. He also said Kedron refused to return his "family heirloom engagement ring."

Days later, he requested another stalking injunction. The text messages said she wanted to protect him from her political opponents, he reported.

"As far as I am concerned, the only protection I need is from her," he wrote.

In early August, a judge dismissed the injunction after Knisley wrote that Kedron had not contacted him or made any more threats. He feared the injunction could "stir up" more emotions and "place me at higher risk," Knisley wrote.

• • •

This week, Kedron called herself an abuse "victim" and said the events have traumatized her. While unemployed, she said she has taken out "emergency loans" to pay daily expenses. Kedron repeatedly talked about the engagement ring and said she would not return it because it would "reward" Knisley.

Kedron said Pinellas Democratic Party chairwoman Susan McGrath urged her to enter the commission race at a time when she needed a job. She said the domestic incidents would make her a better commissioner and show voters she is resilient.

"I want to make a difference before I die," she said. "This is a rare opportunity."

Reached by the Times, Knisley said he stood behind the allegations, adding: "I am afraid of saying too much about Amy because I am afraid she would retaliate vindictively against me as she already has."

On Aug. 29, Kriseman and City Council member Gina Driscoll plan to host a fundraiser for Kedron.

Kriseman said he didn’t know the details about the domestic incidents. But he said Kedron has been able to "put aside all that is going on" while she campaigns. He called her the best candidate.

"She would do the best job," Kriseman said. "She would continue the great relationship" between the county and city.

Contact Mark Puente at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.

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