Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate who last month won Montana's special election a day after being arrested for body-slamming a reporter, was on Monday sentenced to community service and anger management over the incident.
Appearing at Gallatin County Justice Court in Bozeman, the congressman-elect pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for tackling Ben Jacobs to the ground after he became enraged when the Guardian reporter tried to ask him a question.
According to reporters in the court, Justice of the Peace Rick West initially sentenced Gianforte to four days in prison, with two to be served on a work release program. However, the judge was then told that the work program was not available for those convicted of assault.
"This is not my intent that you spend four days in jail," said West, according to a Bozeman Chronicle reporter in the courtroom. "I don't think that will serve the community or the taxpayers."
West then changed Gianforte's sentence to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management training. He was also fined $300 and charged $85 in court fees. He must complete his community service by Nov. 28.
If Gianforte doesn't violate the terms of his six-month deferred sentence of 180 days in jail, he can petition to have his criminal record wiped clean.
Last week, Gianforte wrote a letter apologizing to Jacobs, describing his actions as "unprofessional, unacceptable, and unlawful." The wealthy businessman also pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Jacobs, who accepted Gianforte's apology, told the court Monday that Gianforte's actions had thrust him into the national spotlight.
"If this incident were simply between myself and the Congresman-elect, that would be one thing. However, it has had national ramifications on our politics and our culture," Jacobs told the court.
Speaking before his sentencing, Gianforte apologized to Jacobs directly and said he looked forward to sitting down with him in DC.
Speaking to reporters, Gianforte said he had taken full responsibility.
"This was not a proud moment but I'm ready to move on," he said.
Democrats said Gianforte was unfit to be sworn in to Congress. "[Gianforte] has shown himself to be absolutely unfit for and unworthy of the honor of representing Montana in Congress," DCC spokesman Drew Godinich said. "He should decline to take the oath of office."
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan's office said they had no comment.
Gianforte beat Democrat Rob Quist to fill the lone Montana House seat, which was vacated when President Trump appointed Ryan Zinke to be interior secretary.
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News through a spokesperson after the verdict, Jacobs said he was pleased the issue was resolved:
I am pleased to see that this issue has been resolved, that Congressman-elect Gianforte has taken responsibility for his actions and justice has been served. I fully expect Congressman-elect Gianforte’s thoughtful apology will be followed by concrete measures once he has taken his seat in Congress. I hope the court’s decision will send a strong message about the necessity of civil discourse and the importance of a free press.
Jacobs' glasses, which were broken in the May 24 incident, were donated to the Newseum in Washington, DC.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact David Mack at email@example.com.
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