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Newly-Elected Congressman Greg Gianforte Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Reporter

Variety logo Variety 6/12/2017 Ted Johnson
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Greg Gianforte, who was elected to Congress one day after allegedly assaulting a reporter from The Guardian, plead guilty on Monday and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Gianforte was also sentenced to 20 hours of anger management classes. He was given a six-month jail sentence, with time deferred, according to the paper.

Last week, Gianforte issued a formal apology letter to Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, calling his actions “unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful.” He paid him almost $4,500 as part of a settlement, and said that he would donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Jacobs had been attempting to ask Gianforte a question about healthcare when Gianforte became angry. According to Jacobs, he was “body slammed” to the floor, and his glasses were broken. The May 24 incident took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Mont. That evening, Gianforte was charged with assault.

Gianforte’s campaign initially pinned the blame on Jacobs, saying that he “aggressively shoved” a tape recorder in the candidate’s face. But the next night, after he won the Montana congressional seat, Gianforte apologized, saying that he “made a mistake and I took an action I can’t take back and I’m not proud of what happened.”

According to The Guardian, Jacobs addressed Gianforte’s hearing on Monday, telling the court that he “injured my elbow, broke my glasses and thrust me into a national spotlight I did not seek or desire.”

Jacobs said that Gianforte “lied in a defamatory public statement,” but said that he expected the newly elected congressman to be a “strong advocate for a free press and for the First Amendment.”

“While I have no doubt that actions like these were an aberration for Congressman-elect Gianforte personally, I worry that, in the context of our political debate, they have become increasingly common,” he said. “In recent years, our discourse has grown increasingly rancorous and increasingly vile. This needs to stop.”

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