Prosecutor Insists He Dropped Trump Campaign Manager Charges 'Solely On The Facts'
This week, a Florida prosecutor announced he would not move forward with a battery charge against Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's campaign manager. Lewandowski had been charged after video surfaced showing him grabbing and pulling former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields after a Trump press conference on March 8 at Trump International Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla.
Explaining his decision not to pursue the case, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, said in a Thursday news conference, "We agree that probable cause exists for the Jupiter Police Department to have charged Mr. Lewandowski in this case." But, he continued, "as prosecutors, however, our standards for filing criminal charges is higher than mere probable cause. We have the burden of proving each case beyond a reasonable doubt. In doing so, a prosecutor must have a good-faith basis that the evidence presented will sustain a conviction."
The Trump campaign released a statement shortly after the press conference:
"Corey Lewandowski is gratified by the decision to drop the misdemeanor charge and appreciates the thoughtful consideration and professionalism by the Palm Beach State Attorney and his staff who carefully reviewed this matter, as well as Mr. Trump's loyalty and the support of his colleagues and family during this time. The matter is now concluded."
But, it might not be. Fields, the reporter who filed the initial police report against Lewandowski, could still pursue criminal charges against Lewandowski.
In the news conference, Aronberg acknowledged that initially Lewandowski denied ever touching Fields in any way. He said that, and other factors — like Lewandowski being near a Secret Service officer, who could have stepped in if Trump were in danger — could undermine Lewandowski's potential defense, but "they do not outweigh the reasonable hypothesis of innocence based on the real-time facts and circumstances recorded on the video."
Aronberg also said that Trump reached out to his office, saying Trump shared "his version of the facts, and his opinion of the case, and then urged us to do the right thing." Aronberg said Trump thought Lewandowski should not be charged, but he also said that Trump's contact had no bearing on his team's decision in the case.
When asked about rumors of the attorney's office brokering an apology from Lewandowski to Fields, Aronberg responded, "The apology, in a case like this, obviously would be encouraged. ... We always appreciate when people take responsibility for their actions." But he said their decision in the case has "nothing to do with existence or nonexistence of an apology." He added, "I think that had an apology ... been given at the beginning of all this, we could have avoided the whole criminal justice process for this matter."
Aronberg even said that Lewandowski's attorneys were working on a short apology and showed his office a draft earlier in the week, but that he did not know if it had been delivered, and that it is "up to them to reach out to Ms. Fields and send it to them."
The state attorney spent some time also speaking to allegations of his political leanings. "My political affiliation — and my political leanings are all public — but they don't come inside this office." Aronberg said that he is a Hillary Clinton supporter and that there are Democrats and Republicans on his staff.
"At first they were saying that somehow I was doing this on behalf of Hillary Clinton," he said. "And then they found out I was law school housemates, dormmates with Ted Cruz. ... I knew Marco Rubio in the Florida Legislature. And I have met Mr. Trump on a few occasions. ... The fact that I have a relationship with several of the people who are running for president has no bearing upon our decision in this case. Our decision was made solely on the facts, solely on the evidence, and solely on the law."
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