Gianforte To Plead Guilty To Assault, Settles Civil Claims With Reporter
Greg Gianforte, who recently won a Special Election for Montana’s At-Large seat in the House of Representatives the day after physically assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, will plead guilty to the charges lodged against him:
HELENA, Mont. — U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana will plead guilty to assaulting a reporter the day before being elected the state’s only congressman last month, a prosecutor said Friday.
The Republican technology entrepreneur will enter his plea in court on Monday, when he is scheduled to be arraigned and sentenced on the misdemeanor charge, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert told The Associated Press.
Gianforte requested the court hearing after reaching a civil settlement this week.
Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs over claims that Gianforte knocked Jacobs to the ground when the reporter asked him a question May 24.
Misdemeanor assault convictions in Montana carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $500 fine.
Lambert said he will recommend a penalty to Justice of the Peace Rick West at Monday’s hearing, but declined to disclose his recommendation.
Jacobs said Gianforte “body slammed him” after the reporter asked a question about the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of a health care bill that passed the U.S. House.
Audio of the encounter taken by Jacobs recorded sounds of a scuffle, followed by Gianforte yelling for the reporter to “get the hell out of here.”
Earlier in the week, Gianforte and Jacobs had reached a settlement of the civil claims against Gianforte:
Greg Gianforte, the newly elected Montana House Republican who “body slammed” the Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs just a day before his election, has issued a full apology and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
The donation and a formal apology letter sent to Jacobs to settle potential civil claims.
“Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he wrote in the letter. “I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this has created for you. I take full responsibility.”
Jacobs accepted Gianforte’s apology in a statement Wednesday.
“I have accepted Mr Gianforte’s apology and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and statements,” Jacobs said in a statement. “I hope the constructive resolution of this incident reinforces for all the importance of respecting the freedom of the press and the first amendment and encourages more civil and thoughtful discourse in our country.”
Although I am unfamiliar with Montana law on this subject, I’m guessing that Gianforte will most likely only face a fine and that there will not be any jail time associated with the sentence, or if there is it will be suspended. Absent evidence that Gianforte has a criminal record or a history of behavior like this, this seems entirely appropriate to me.