*Updated Thurs. 5/25 at 2:30 p.m.
GOP Candidate Greg Gianforte faces misdemeanor assault charges for "body slamming" a reporter for The Guardian at his campaign headquarters last night, on the eve of today’s special election to fill Montana’s lone U.S. House Seat. He must appear in Gallatin County Justice Court by June 7.
Crime reporter Whitney Bermes for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle first heard the assault report on a police scanner, as she was packing up to leave the newsroom and go home for the evening.
YPR’s Brie Ripley is joined in conversation with Bermes who’s been following the assault from police report to Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office citation.
* This story has been updated since original publication from "Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter" to "GOP Candidate Greg Gianforte faces misdemeanor assault charges for 'body slamming' a reporter for The Guardian at his campaign headquarters last night, on the eve of today’s special election to fill Montana’s lone U.S. House Seat. He must appear in Gallatin County Justice Court by June 7."
Brie Ripley: Whitney Bermes is the cops and courts reporter at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and she’s been covering GOP U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte’s assault on a Guardian journalist. Thanks for joining YPR, Whitney.
Whitney Bermes: Thank you for having me!
BR: So yesterday, a little after 5 p.m., you were about to head home from the office. You heard on the police scanner that GOP candidate Gianforte had body slammed a reporter at his campaign headquarters. What happened next?
WB: Me and my colleague, Freddy Monares, kind of looked at each other and knew something was up so we listened a little more and waited for the dispatcher to repeat what was reported and that's when we got the full story of what was being reported to police: that a Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had alleged that Mr. Gianforte had body-slammed him while he was trying to ask him questions at Gianforte campaign headquarters.
Greg Gianforte: "Sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here... get the hell out of here!"
BR: When did it go from alleged assault to Mr. Gianforte receiving a citation for a misdemeanor by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s office?
WB: About 10:30 p.m. was the Sheriff’s Office announce that Mr. Gianforte had been cited for misdemeanor assault.
BR: What's the difference between misdemeanor and felony assault in Montana?
WB: In Montana the way the law reads a misdemeanor assault is purposely or knowingly causing injury to another person or even negligently causing injury if there's a weapon involved, but to get to the felony level, it's a little bit more specific ... for aggravated assault, which is a felony assault, the person purposely or knowingly causes injury to another person with the use of physical force or contact. They use the phrase, "Causes reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury or death to another person."
Basically I think it's up to the officers who are investigating. Basically it just has to be a more serious body injury as opposed to just a minor injury.
BR: If Mr. Gianforte is charged with Misdemeanor assault, what's the maximum penalty that he might face?
WB: The maximum penalty that he would face if he is convicted whether that's by pleading guilty or if he decides to take it to trial and he is found guilty, the maximum penalty would be up to 6 months in a county jail and a 500 dollar fine. Or both. The next step Mr. Gianforte will have to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court on the charge between now and June 7. Justice Court has an open court three days a week in the morning on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where people who are cited for misdemeanors can appear on the charges. So he has a little levity with when he will appear in court. It just has to be on or before June 7th.
more info: Justice Court has open court dates on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays @ 8 am. Can come to any of those between now & June 7. #mtal https://t.co/kaOa9EsYfM— Whitney Bermes (@wabermes) May 25, 2017