WebHeader_Grove.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Make your tax-deductible year-end gift today!
National

Gianforte Sentenced To Community Service For Assaulting Reporter

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Montana's newly elected congressman pleaded guilty today to assaulting a journalist. The judge sentenced Republican Greg Gianforte to community service and anger management counseling. Montana Public Radio's Corin Cates-Carney reports from Bozeman.

CORIN CATES-CARNEY, BYLINE: About two and a half weeks ago, Greg Gianforte won Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House by six points a day after witnesses said the candidate threw a journalist to the ground and punched him. The wealthy software entrepreneur turned politician walked into his home county courthouse this morning accompanied by his wife, lawyers and campaign staffers. At one point in the hearing, Gianforte approached the podium in the center of the room and asked the judge if he could speak to Ben Jacobs, the newspaper reporter he assaulted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG GIANFORTE: I just want to say I'm sorry. And if and when you're ready, I look forward to sitting down with you in D.C.

CATES-CARNEY: After Gianforte entered his guilty plea, Jacobs was given the opportunity to make a statement. Jacobs accepted Gianforte's apology but said he was concerned about the tone of political discourse in the U.S.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN JACOBS: There will always be fundamental political disagreements in our society. However, these need not become personal and certainly should never become violent. I just hope that this court’s decision can send a strong message about the necessity of civil discourse in our country.

CATES-CARNEY: In a separate settlement agreement so Jacobs wouldn't sue him, Gianforte donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The misdemeanor assault charge carried with it the possibility of six months in jail and a $500 fine. But when it came time for his punishment, Gianforte avoided any jail time. He was ordered to pay a $385 fine, do 40 hours of community service and enroll in 20 hours of anger management counseling. Andrew King-Ries is a criminal law professor at the University of Montana. He says this penalty is not out of the ordinary for someone guilty of misdemeanor with a previously clean record.

ANDREW KING-RIES: You don't have a situation where you think someone's going to go commit other violent acts.

CATES-CARNEY: King-Ries says he didn't see any special treatment being given to Gianforte throughout the proceedings. Neither during today's hearing or during a brief press conference afterwards did Gianforte or his staff say why his campaign at the time blamed the assault on, quote, "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist," unquote. As staff members guided Gianforte away from the courthouse, a handful of protesters yelled after him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: You assaulted the First Amendment. You should resign.

CATES-CARNEY: Ian Root was among them.

IAN ROOT: If he's a congressperson, he should be setting an example for Montana.

CATES-CARNEY: Gianforte is expected to be sworn in as Montana's lone representative in the U.S. House later this month. For NPR News, I'm Corin Cates-Carney in Bozeman, Mo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.