Gianforte Pleads Guilty: No Jail Time
On Monday, Montana representative-elect Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault for body-slamming Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, the night before Gianforte was elected to the U.S. House. Gianforte will not serve jail time; he was given a six-month deferred sentence.
Whitney Bermes of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that the judge initially gave Gianforte four days in jail, but after consultation with prosecution and defense lawyers, the judge changed the sentence.
Bermes added later:
The maximum penalty for misdemeanor assault in Montana is a $500 fine and six months in jail.
The case arose on May 24, as Gianforte was about to do a television interview. Jacobs asked him a question about congressional Republicans' health care plan when Gianforte body-slammed him, breaking Jacobs’ glasses. The incident was confirmed by three Fox reporters. Gianforte later apologized publicly and promised a donation of $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists if Jacobs eschewed filing a lawsuit.
Jacobs told the court he hoped the sentencing would send a message about the "important role of the free press and the need to help heal our political system … 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. In recent years, our discourse has grown increasingly rancorous and increasingly vile. This needs to stop."