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.


FILED UNDER: 2017 Election, Congress, Crime, Law and the Courts, Science & Technology, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    While I still wish he’d lost the election, I do have to say that Gianforte’s apology letter is probably the best politician apology I’ve seen in years. None of those “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” cop outs and an actual concrete act of repair rather than just empty words.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I hope he gets at least some jail time — his actions are fundamentally worse than the garden variety assault, as it was both literally and figuratively an assault on the free press. An example should be made of Gianforte.

    Also, he should not be seated in the House of Representatives, but there is not much that can be done about that — some people know no shame. Pictures and footage of him in an orange jumpsuit should hopefully limit his political career though.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:


    I can’t find a sentencing matrix for Montana, but based on the one for my state, even “making an example of him” for simple assault with no priors is at worst 4 months in county lockup.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    He’s an asshole and should not be seated by the House, but he doesn’t need jail time.

  5. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: ” …should not be seated by the House, but he doesn’t need jail time.”

    The fact that he will be seated in the House is why he needs the jail time. Beyond his apology–which I will agree with Stormy is better than usual–he needs other consequences that will allow him to remember this incident. Wearing a county jumpsuit, even for a few days, is just the ticket.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Thirty days would be fine.

    There should be consequences for assault, and if one is incredibly wealthy, paying a fine isn’t really consequences. Thirty days is long enough that he would feel it, however.

    And the footage of him in his orange jumpsuit would follow him for the rest of his political career, and it would show that no one is above the law, not even a member of congress.

  7. Senyordave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I do have to say that Gianforte’s apology letter is probably the best politician apology I’ve seen in years.

    Remember that his initial reaction was to lie about the whole event. Then when he was caught in the lie by witnesses who contradicted him, he came clean. Pretty ironic that it was a Fox news reporting team that ended up saving the day. I think it would be a good bet if this were an ordinary citizen, especially a POC. he would be getting different treatment by the justice system.

  8. gVOR08 says:


    I hope he gets at least some jail time

    Unlikely given that the sheriff, a Gianforte donor, charged him with misdemeanor assault.

    Wonder how many of Gianforte’s Tea Party Trumpskyite supporters recognize that the plea means the post incident statement from his campaign was complete BS.