Gianforte will plead guilty to assault in incident with reporter, official says
Greg Gianforte, the Montana congressman-elect who was accused of “body slamming” a reporter, has agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault, according to the county attorney in the case.
The guilty plea should come on Monday morning, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said.
“My sentencing recommendation will be heard at that time,” Lambert said in a statement to reporters. He did not say what the sentencing recommendation will be.
A misdemeanor assault conviction in Montana carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500, according to the state government website.
Gianforte has apologized to the journalist, Ben Jacobs, and also pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that promotes press freedom, “in the hope that perhaps some good can come of these events.”
The encounter happened on May 24, when Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after Jacobs accused the politician of “body slamming” him at a campaign event.
Gianforte, a Republican, won the election the next day and apologized to the reporter during his acceptance speech.
He also issued a letter to Jacobs last week.
“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte said in the letter.
“I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
Jacobs accepted the apology.
“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.”
During their encounter at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman last month, Jacobs had been asking the then-candidate about the Republican health care plan when the alleged assault took place.
Gianforte’s campaign initially blamed the altercation on Jacobs’ “aggressive behavior” and offered a version of events at odds with an audio recording and witness accounts.
In his letter, Gianforte stated: “I had no right to respond the way did to your legitimate question about healthcare policy. You were doing your job.”