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Man who attacked classmate with hammer can keep GOP post, Florida state party official says

Rupert Ditsworth. He was sentenced to six years’ probation for an attack on a female classmate while in high school in L.A. He later changed his last name to Tarsey and moved to Florida.
(Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

The secretary of a local Republican Party in Florida, who was convicted in a brutal 2007 hammer attack on a high school classmate in Los Angeles, can keep his position, state party leaders have decided.

Rupert Tarsey was elected to the Broward County Republican Executive Committee in May as a party newcomer, outscoring two challengers who’d been around longer. But a few months later, committee members discovered that the 28-year-old had changed his name several years ago and hid a violent past.

When the revelations reached the board in September, some called on him to resign. He refused.

The committee’s chairman, Bob Sutton, tried to suspend him. Tarsey filed a grievance against Sutton with the Florida Republican Party, arguing Sutton didn’t have the legal authority to take that action. Sutton’s attorney filed a cross-grievance against Tarsey.

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Florida Republican Party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia resolved those grievances last week, putting both men on probation — Tarsey for one year, Sutton for six months.

Ingoglia also issued a sharp rebuke of Tarsey, saying that anyone with a criminal record is an embarrassment to the party and should resign.

“I don’t think that Tarsey should be an officer, or even a member, of any Republican Party given his past history and current penchant for intentionally misleading people,” Ingoglia said in a statement. “He should have resigned for the good of the party and unfortunately, he did not.”

But, he said, it’s up to the local party, which voted Tarsey in “without performing their due diligence,” to remove him if they so choose.

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“We are a party of rules and process,” he said. “Now, the local [Republican executive committee] members have the ability to remove him.”

Tarsey declined to comment when reached by phone last week.

A decade ago, he was Rupert Ditsworth, a 17-year-old senior at Harvard-Westlake High School, an elite college preparatory academy in Los Angeles.

He invited a schoolmate to lunch one day in May and on their drive back, detoured to a quiet residential street. There, he told her that he had thoughts of suicide. She suggested he drive back to school and see a counselor.

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Instead, according to court records, he reached inside his backpack, pulled out a claw hammer and started swinging. He smashed his classmate’s nose and leg, split her scalp and gave her two black eyes.

As part of a plea agreement brokered with prosecutors, he pleaded no contest to one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon, avoided jail time and was sentenced to six years’ probation.

He changed his name and moved to Florida, where he received extensive mental health treatment, excelled in college and earned a master’s degree in business administration. Last year, he successfully petitioned to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor.

Ingoglia also criticized the local party’s leadership for damaging the broader GOP.

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“It is unfortunate how this matter is being made public and how the leadership of the Broward REC, which is in complete disarray, is damaging the Republican Party to further their own personal agendas,” Ingoglia said. “BREC leadership should consider themselves on a very short leash.”

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Twitter: @AleneTchek


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