Montana GOPer Who Pleaded Guilty To Assaulting Reporter Avoids Jail Time

Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle

A county judge on Monday ruled that Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won a House seat in May a day after allegedly bodyslamming a reporter who asked him questions, will not spend any time in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault.

Judge Rick West changed his initial ruling, which included potential jail time, to substitute 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that West also gave Gianforte a $385 bill for fines and fees and a deferred six-month jail sentence. After six months, Gianforte’s lawyers can move to have the latter dismissed if he does not violate the conditions of the deferral, according to the report.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert told the Associated Press on Friday that Gianforte was “not going to be entering a nolo contendere plea” on Monday.

“He’s going to be pleading guilty,” Lambert said.

Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, accused Gianforte in May of bodyslamming him and breaking his glasses after Jacobs asked him a question about the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

A Fox News reporter also on the scene said that Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck, slammed him to the ground, and punched him several times.

Gianforte’s campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon contradicted those accounts in a statement released the same night where he claimed Jacobs “aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face.”

Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault but went on to win the election amid calls to withdraw his candidacy.

As part of a civil settlement in June, Jacobs said he would not object to Gianforte entering a nolo contendere plea, or one of no contest. Gianforte apologized to Jacobs and agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists as part of the agreement.

“My physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful,” Gianforte wrote in a letter to Jacobs. “I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

“I hope this court’s decision can send a strong message about the necessity of civil discourse and the important role of the free press and to help heal our political system,” Jacobs said in a statement he read in court on Monday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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