GOP candidate Greg Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault on Wednesday night after he was accused of “body-slamming” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs.
The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release regarding the incident that occurred earlier in the evening at a Gianforte campaign volunteer barbecue in Bozeman, Montana.
“Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault,” the statement said.
“The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault. Greg Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7, 2017.”
Jacobs said he was attacked — “bodyslammed” — by Gianforte as a TV interview was being set up. Jacobs was later taken to an ambulance, where he took a photo of his glasses, which he claims were broken during the fight. Audio of the incident and witness accounts supported Jacobs’ version of events, which the campaign disputed.
Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) May 24, 2017
The sheriff’s office said that if convicted, aspiring lawmaker Gianforte could be “fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for any term not to exceed 6 months, or both,” if convicted.
The campaign confirmed that a physical confrontation had taken place, but not as Jacobs detailed it. In a statement released to media, the campaign said that the incident was the result of aggressive and violent behavior by Jacobs, leaving Gianforte no choice but to defend himself physically.
“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave,” spokesperson Shane Scanlon said.
“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
However, the media world and Jacobs’ fellow reporters did not accept the explanation, and many called for Gianforte to be arrested.
Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who was in the room to conduct the TV interview with Gianforte for “Special Report With Bret Baier,” said in her account of the incident that “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”
New York Daily News justice writer Shaun King tweeted that Gianforte “should be arrested tonight. Period. He assaulted a reporter. This must never be acceptable.”