ATLANTA (CN) — A college student sued Georgia Senator David Perdue for civil battery Monday, claiming he heavy-handedly snatched the student’s cellphone away during an event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.
In a complaint filed in Fulton County, Georgia, Nathan Knauf claims Perdue seized his cellphone phone after he attempted to use it to record himself asking the senator a question about allegations of voter suppression made against Kemp.
Knauf, a junior computer-science major at Georgia Tech, is seeking a jury trial, attorneys’ fees, and unspecified compensatory, nominal and punitive damages from the junior senator.
The exchange, which was recorded on the student’s cell phone, occurred on October 13 when Perdue was on the Georgia Tech campus to campaign for Kemp.
Kemp is currently locked in a tight race for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams.
“Hey, so, uh, how can you endorse a candidate,” Knauf began to ask while using his phone to record video.
Knauf reportedly intended to ask Perdue a question about his decision to endorse Brian Kemp after reports surfaced revealing that Kemp’s office put over 50,000 voter registrations on hold.
An Associated Press investigation found that almost 70 percent of those registration applications belong to black voters.
“Suddenly and without warning, Senator Perdue committed unlawful battery when he seized Mr. Knauf’s phone, touching Mr. Knauf in the process of seizing the phone, while angrily declaring: ‘No, I’m not doing that—I’m not doing that,'” the complaint states.
“You stole my property,” Knauf can be heard saying to the senator.
“Give me my phone back, Senator,” he says.
“You wanted a picture? I’m going to give it to you,” Perdue says, appearing to ignore Knauf’s demand to return the phone.
The lawsuit alleges that Sen. Perdue stopped the video recording on Knauf’s phone and ignored several requests to return the phone before finally giving it back and walking away.
When Perdue returned Knauf’s phone to him, the student followed him and began recording again.
“That’s U.S. Senator David Perdue. U.S. Senator David Perdue just snatched my phone because he won’t answer a question from one of his constituents. He’s trying to leave. He’s trying to leave because he won’t answer why he’s endorsing a candidate who’s trying to purge people from voting on the basis of their race,” Knauf says in the recording.
Knauf told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he had asked the senator to take a photo with his friend so he could ask his question and record the exchange, but changed his mind when Perdue asked for his phone to take a selfie.
Senator Perdue’s office has characterized the incident as a misunderstanding.
“This complaint is complete nonsense and lacks any merit whatsoever,” a spokeswoman for Senator Perdue said in a statement. “It’s now abundantly clear that this is being politically orchestrated by Georgia Democrats. The Senator was simply asked to take a picture and went to take a selfie as he often does with hundreds of people. The Senator was also not ignoring their questions, in fact, he had just finished answering several students’ questions about climate change.”
“Georgians will see this for what it is – a manufactured setup to embarrass the Senator and attack his credibility two weeks before the midterm elections. Instead, Democrats are embarrassing themselves with a frivolous case that will only waste the court’s time,” the spokeswoman said.
Knauf is represented by David Dreyer, a Georgia state representative who has publicly expressed support for Stacey Abrams, and Michael Sterling, a former Atlanta Democratic mayoral candidate, of Dreyer Sterling LLC in Atlanta.