Judge Orders Formal Booking for Montana Rep. Charged in Assault

BOZEMAN, Mont. (CN) – U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to charges of misdemeanor assault on a reporter in June, must appear at a Montana county jail by Sept. 15 for fingerprinting and a mug shot.

Gallatin County Justice Court Judge Rick West on Aug. 17 ordered Gianforte, R-Mont., to appear at the Gallatin County Detention Center for fingerprinting and photography by Sept. 15. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault after he threw The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground after Jacobs had asked Gianforte for his opinion about health care legislation. Gianforte pleaded guilty to the charge in June.

The assault happened May 24, the night before Montana’s special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Ryan Zinke, whom President Trump had picked to lead the Department of Interior. Despite allegations of the assault, which took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Gianforte went on to win the election the next day by narrowly defeating Democratic opponent Rob Quist.

After his initial appearance in justice court in June, Gianforte’s attorneys objected to their client having to appear for fingerprinting and photography, saying that Montana law does not require a judge to order fingerprinting and booking photographs. Judge West denied that objection.

West gave Gianforte a six-month deferred sentence and ordered the congressman to complete 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger-management classes and to pay a $385 fine. As part of a settlement with Jacobs, Gianforte issued a written apology to Jacobs and promised to donate $50,000 to a journalism-advocacy organization.

In his Aug. 17 order, West said Gianforte’s failure to comply with the order would result in contempt of court and a warrant issued for Gianforte’s arrest.

Gianforte has already filed to enter the 2018 House election. So far, one Democrat has filed to run against Gianforte: Billings attorney John Heenan.

Montana Democratic Party spokesman Roy Loewenstein said rather than have his lawyers fighting whether his mugshot should be taken, Gianforte should have been working for Montana.

“He has wasted months fighting for preferential treatment for himself when he could have been working to help Montana families,” Loewenstein said. “And he still hasn’t explained his position on a health care bill that would force Montanans to pay more for less coverage. Ultimately, his conviction is only one part of his failed record he’ll have to defend next year, and we’re going to make sure Montanans have all the facts in 2018.”

Montana GOP leaders and Gianforte’s Washington office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

 

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