(Adds comment from congressman-elect)
By Tommy Martino
BOZEMAN, Mont., June 12 A Montana Republican
congressman-elect pleaded guilty on Monday to assaulting a
reporter and was ordered to perform community service and
receive anger management training.
Greg Gianforte, a wealthy former technology executive who
campaigned on his support for President Donald Trump, attacked a
reporter on May 24, the day before he won a special election to
fill Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gallatin County Judge Rick West sentenced Gianforte to 40
hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management
The judge in Bozeman, Montana, also handed down a six-month
deferred jail sentence, allowing Gianforte to avoid time behind
bars if he complies with the court's orders.
Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for Britain's Guardian
newspaper, said Gianforte "body-slammed" him, breaking his
eyeglasses, when the reporter posed a question about healthcare
during a campaign event in Bozeman.
The altercation has been portrayed as a sign of the toxicity
that has infused American politics. Critics of Trump say his
strident criticism of the media has encouraged violence against
journalists, while some of the president's supporters say
reporters in general are unfair in their coverage.
"This was not a proud moment, but I'm ready to move on and
we have a lot of work to do in Washington," Gianforte, who is
expected to be sworn in later this month, said outside court.
Last week Gianforte apologized to Jacobs in a letter, and he
sent a $50,000 check to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In
return, Jacobs pledged not to sue him.
"I am confident that he will be a strong advocate for a free
press and the First Amendment," Jacobs said in court on Monday.
"And I even hope to be able to finally interview him once he has
arrived on Capitol Hill."
Gianforte apologized to Jacobs again in court and said he
looked forward to meeting with him later.
The judge left open the possibility that Gianforte, after
completing his sentence, could have the misdemeanor assault
charge formally dismissed, Gallatin County Prosecutor Marty
Lambert said by phone.
Gianforte initially sought to plead no contest, instead of
guilty, but the prosecutor said he insisted on a guilty plea.
"This is the type of case where a defendant just needs to
admit to the court what he did, to plead guilty, and he did
that," Lambert said.
Gianforte on May 25 defeated Democrat Rob Quist to fill the
House seat vacated when Trump appointed Ryan Zinke as interior
(Writing and additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los
Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)