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Montana Congressman-elect to Be Sentenced for Altercation With Reporter


FILE -Greg Gianforte receives congratulations from a supporter, March 6, 2017, in Helena, Mont., after winning the Republican nomination for Montana's special election for U.S. House. The technology entrepreneur defeated Democratic nominee Rob Quist in the May 25 election.

U.S. Representative-elect Greg Gianforte, a Montana Republican, is expected next week to enter a plea of no contest or guilty to misdemeanor assault after he was accused of attacking a reporter on the eve of his election, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Gianforte will appear in court in Bozeman on Monday and is scheduled to be sentenced the same day, after he enters his plea, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said by phone.

The altercation has been portrayed as an illustration of the new toxicity of American politics. Critics of President Donald Trump say his strident criticism of the media has encouraged violence against journalists, while his supporters say many reporters are overly aggressive and disrespectful.

Under Montana law, a conviction for misdemeanor assault carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Lambert declined to say whether his office would recommend jail time.

An attorney for Gianforte declined to comment.

Gianforte, a technology executive, pledged in a letter Wednesday to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists and apologized to reporter Ben Jacobs, who accused Gianforte of assaulting him May 24.

Republican Greg Gianforte greets supporters at a hotel ballroom after winning Montana's sole congressional seat, May 25, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. In his speech, Gianforte apologized for a altercation at his campaign headquarters with a reporter on the eve of the special election.
Republican Greg Gianforte greets supporters at a hotel ballroom after winning Montana's sole congressional seat, May 25, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. In his speech, Gianforte apologized for a altercation at his campaign headquarters with a reporter on the eve of the special election.

Gianforte won Montana's lone seat in the House of Representatives in a special election the next day.

'Body-slammed'

Jacobs, a political correspondent for the U.S. edition of The Guardian newspaper, said Gianforte "body-slammed" him, breaking his eyeglasses, when the reporter posed a question about health care during a campaign event in Bozeman.

Gianforte was heard shouting: "Get the hell out of here!" and "I'm sick and tired of you guys!" in an audio recording of the incident played repeatedly on news broadcasts.

Gianforte's campaign initially suggested Jacobs instigated the incident by barging into the candidate's office and shoving a recording device into his face as he was preparing for a TV interview.

But in a letter of apology to Jacobs issued Wednesday, Gianforte said his "physical response to your legitimate question was unprofessional, unacceptable and unlawful."

In return for Gianforte's apology and his charitable donation, Jacobs agreed not to bring a civil action against the congressman-elect.

Jacobs, at Gianforte's request, also sent an email to Lambert, saying he would not object to Gianforte's pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault, according to a release-of-liability document signed by Jacobs.

Lambert said his office could still insist that Gianforte plead guilty instead of no contest. In either event, the plea would trigger Gianforte's sentencing.

Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist to fill the House seat vacated when Trump appointed Ryan Zinke as interior secretary. He is expected to be sworn in later this month.

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