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Montana congressman pleads guilty to body-slamming reporter, gets community service

Screengrab via CBS This Morning/YouTube

Rep. Greg Gianforte must also undergo anger management classes and pay a fine.

The Montana representative who body-slammed a Guardian reporter the night before he was elected to Congress pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault on Monday and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service.

Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, also apologized to reporter Ben Jacobs, saying, “I just want to say I’m sorry, and if and when you’re ready, I look forward to sitting down with you.”

Jacobs testified, according to the Guardian, that, “I asked Mr. Gianforte a question in the same manner I have asked questions of hundreds of politicians: congressmen, senators and even the man who is now our president. Mr Gianforte’s response was to slam me to the floor and start punching me. He injured my elbow, broke my glasses and thrust me into a national spotlight I did not seek or desire.”

Jacobs’ glasses were broken during last month’s tussle with Gianforte, but he likely got a really nice new pair afterward.

Here was the audio of the encounter.

On Monday, after pleading guilty, Gianforte was sentenced to community service, 20 hours of anger management classes, and a $385 fine. He already had agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists in a settlement with Jacobs.

After the assault, the Gianforte campaign team originally said Jacobs had entered an office without permission, began “asking badgering questions,” and declined to lower the recorder he put in Gianforte’s face.

This scenario, which the audio of the encounter challenges, was not dissimilar from what happened Monday when Gianforte arrived at the Gallatin County Courthouse.

Gianforte, though, said on Monday he didn’t mean to hurt Jacobs but that “I understand Ben was injured.”

Jacobs testified in court that Gianforte had “lied in a defamatory public statement.” But he also said he now wants to see Gianforte become a “strong advocate for a free press and for the first amendment.”

In a previous apology, Gianforte said, “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you. I am sorry for what I did and the unwanted notoriety this created for you.”

Josh Katzowitz

Josh Katzowitz

Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.