Montana's newest congressman, multimillionaire Greg Gianforte, pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter and was sentenced to community service and anger management. He will not serve any time in jail.
Gallatin County Justice of the Peace Rick West sentenced the Republican technology entrepreneur to 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management counseling and ordered him to pay a $385 fine for the misdemeanor. If he remains law abiding for 180 days, he can petition for the conviction to be removed from his record. The Republican technology entrepreneur entered his plea in court on Monday, and his arraignment and sentence on the misdemeanor charge followed.
Gianforte's attorneys noted that he had already paid more than $4,600 in restitution to Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for the assault, which cast a pall over his May 25 victory to serve the remainder of Ryan Zinke's term. Zinke resigned to become Interior Department secretary.
Jacobs welcomed the ruling.
"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," he said. "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."
Gianforte requested the court hearing after reaching a civil settlement this week. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said Gianforte knocked Jacobs to the ground when he asked him a question on May 24. Jacobs said Gianforte "body slammed" him after the reporter asked a question about the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of a health care bill the day before the May 25 election.
Audio of the encounter taken by Jacobs recorded sounds of a scuffle, followed by Gianforte yelling for the reporter to "get the hell out of here." Police charged Gianforte that night.
Jacobs signed a release agreeing not to sue Gianforte. In exchange, Gianforte wrote a letter of apology to Jacobs and pledged to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Both Gianforte and Jacobs have said in statements they want to put the episode behind them.
Gianforte is expected to be sworn in this month, after defeating Democrat Rob Quist in the special congressional election to serve the remainder of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's term. Zinke had won a second term as Montana's congressman last November before President Donald Trump tapped him for the cabinet post. Gianforte cruised to victory after weathering a political firestorm, observed CBS Billings affiliate KTVQ-TV, winning 48 of Montana's 56 counties.
The newly elected congressman, who sold the software company he founded to Oracle for $1.8 billion in 2011, won his first political office over Democrat Rob Quist after a short but intense campaign set off by Zinke's appointment to the Cabinet post by President Trump.