Until he assaulted a LEO Weekly reporter at the Jefferson County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday,
I had never heard of J.D. Sparks.
The round-faced ex-Marine and vice president of strategic development for CinTel, an international tech company based in Louisville, grabbed the wrists and arms of reporter Jonathan Meador so hard he left marks. I saw them. The scrapes and bruises were easy to spot more than 24 hours after the fact.
Meador, bless him, managed to capture the whole attack on video (go to fatlip.leoweekly.com to watch): Sparks approaches while Meador is filming pre-game ambience, as attendees mill about the Galt House Ballroom. Without provocation, Sparks coughs up a weird variant of the standard chauvinistic challenge (“Instead of doing it like a secret dog, why don’t you just do it like a man?”), then tries and fails to deactivate the camera. While this is happening, Meador is asking Sparks to identify himself, to determine whether the man is in any position to demand that a reporter stop filming.
Sparks holds forth on the value of a press pass, telling Meador if he were “literal media” — as opposed, I guess, to figurative media, or secret domesticated animals, or whatever — he would actually “go and, like, sign in, and you would have a camera and you would show yourself instead of walking around and acting …” and then he trails off. One may assume here that Meador has somehow become invisible.
A struggle ensues. Although Sparks, whom a local GOP spokeswoman disavowed in a phone interview Monday, is not affiliated with the party in an official capacity, he demands to see Meador’s ticket. Meador gives Sparks the name of his GOP contact, a nice woman named Andi Johnson who credentialed LEO in advance of the event, and says if he cares to check, Sparks will find his name on the press roster.
Sparks is seen pushing Meador toward an exit near the back of the ballroom. He accuses the reporter of “secretly” taping — Meador had been holding the camera out in front of his body, wandering around the room — and begins manhandling him. The camera appears to hit the floor as Meador pleads with him.
The next clear shot is Sparks fleeing down a hallway.
Meador notified hotel security, who combed the place but never found Sparks. The reporter called Metro Police, but because the officer did not witness the assault (a dictate of state law), he could not apprehend Sparks. Meador, with the assistance of LEO and an attorney, plans to file charges against Sparks Wednesday.
Along with his office gig, Sparks — a married father of two whose corporate bio says he has four degrees (none in humility) — is an election volunteer coordinator for the legislative arm of the National Rifle Association. According to politicos around the state with whom I spoke, he’s a frequent attendee of Republican Party events, and serves as an official in the Oldham County GOP. He maintains a barebones website, www.jdsparks.com, which appears to be a launching pad for a future pursuit of elective office. He has a Facebook group, “J.D. Sparks for Kentucky,” with a membership of four (one is him). As well, he is a member of a Facebook group called “If You Don’t Stand Behind Our Troops, Please Feel Free To Stand In Front Of Them.”
By all accounts, Sparks* is your typical post-9/11 archconservative radical with a hard-on for unprovoked violence and a rigid lust for the Second Amendment. On his website he lists driving directions to reach him, which include a left turn at “freedom plaza,” a right at “Semper Fi drive,” and finally a stop at “liberty drive … well, not exactly, but in a dream world.” The biting irony here, of course, is that Sparks — for all his rah-rah about freedom in the abstract — is the kind of guy who would sweat through a suit over a messy-haired punk like Jonathan Meador hanging around his political event. I suppose freedom doesn’t extend beyond the Second Amendment.
There is something wrong in America when a guy like Sparks feels like he can physically assault a credentialed, working reporter at a place where he holds zero authority. It is the fallacy of the Bush era, writ large along a reporter’s arms: If you have a big gun, use it. But in mainstream America, only a specific set of circumstances entitles one to violence.
I’d bet even most of your Republican friends understand this, Mr. Sparks.
*I left two voicemails for Sparks, neither of which was returned.