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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Judge Orders Mugshot, Fingerprints For Rep Gianforte

Gianforte speaks to media after his court appearance, Monday, June 12, 2017.
Louise Johns
Gianforte speaks to media after his court appearance, Monday, June 12, 2017.

Montana Representative Greg Gianforte has lost his bid to avoid being booked, photographed and fingerprinted for assaulting a reporter the day before he was elected in May.

Judge Rick West ordered the Republican to report to the Gallatin County Detention Center to be booked for the misdemeanor assault charge by September 15.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Brie Ripley spoke with Bozeman Daily Chronicle City Editor Whitney Bermes about the ruling.

At a June hearing, Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming Ben Jacobs, a reporter with the Guardian newspaper.

Bermes, who’s been covering the assault since the beginning, says that Gianforte’s attorneys argued that Justice Court judges don’t have discretion to order fingerprints or photographs of defendants.

"And whenever there’s a motion like that, the prosecutor gets a chance to respond," Bermes says. "And in his response, Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert had just said, 'you know, I believe Mr. Gianforte’s defense attorneys erroneously interpreted Montana law and that the Justice Court Judge does have the authority to order the defendant, in Mr. Gianforte’s situation, where he wasn’t ever taken into custody or wasn’t ever booked in jail, initially, as part of the offense, that he still should have to, if the judge wants him to, take a mugshot and be fingerprinted.' So after Mr. Lambert filed his response to that, the defense got one more chance — what they called a reply brief — filed the reply brief, again just kind of reiterating arguments they had already made, ‘here’s why we believe the Congressman shouldn’t have to take these fingerprints and photographs,’ and then once all that was submitted the judge then ruled on those briefs.

Judge West signed the ruling last Thursday.

Bermes says Gianforte’s attorneys did not immediately respond to her on whether he will appeal to Gallatin County District Court.

"Seeing what Mr. Gianforte’s defense attorneys will do now is important. They could say hey, we believe he needs to just go do these and just get them done, or they could keep fighting and they could appeal the judge’s ruling up the district court and ask for a higher judge to rule on their motion. So that’s yet to be seen."

A mug shot would likely be used against Gianforte when he runs for reelection next year.

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