It was an unbelievable scene in Gallatin County Criminal Court Monday when Republican Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to an assault charge when he body slammed The Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, the night before he won the election.
At first, Judge Rick West sentenced Gianforte to four days in jail but then changed his mind and even allowed Gianforte to leave without ever being booked.
“Being a congressman-elect, having to spend any time in jail isn’t something you should do,” Judge West said in a courtroom filled with reporters.
When it was all said and done, Gianforte ended up having to pay $385 in fines, complete anger management classes and do some community service.
Gianforte refused to answer any questions after court regarding the fake statements his campaign put out after the assault.
“Essentially, Gianforte’s campaign took the stance that the allegations of the ‘liberal journalist’ couldn’t be believed. It’s all ‘fake news,’ don’t you know,” the local newspaper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle wrote. “This might have remained the storyline except for an audiotape of the incident and the eyewitness accounts from a Fox News team that clearly contradict the version offered by Gianforte’s campaign, accounts that investigators and prosecutors believed when they charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault later that same night.”
Judge West’s decision to take back Gianforte’s jail sentence means he received a “get out of jail free” card even though there are still ramifications to Gianforte’s violent actions.
“A man who assaults another person then lies about it, and acts with only his best interests in mind does not share our Montana values,” Nancy Keenan of the Montana Democratic Party said. “Greg Gianforte should not be sworn in as a member of Congress, and if he is, he must resign.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Gianforte “should decline to take the oath of office” after his “heinous violent assault.”