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Montana congressman-elect receives community service for attack on reporter

Judge West initially considered sentencing Gianforte to four days in jail, but declined, noting that Gianforte was eligible for a work program that would keep him out of jail and grant him community service instead.Gianforte was ordered Monday to complete 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling.Gianforte also agreed to donate $50,000 to the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists.Gianforte, a wealthy businessman, told a packed courtroom in Bozeman, Montana that he had apologized to reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. “I take full responsibility”.Gianforte’s counsel can move to have his charges dropped in six months if he does not violate the terms of his sentence.West referenced Gianforte’s charitable giving in the Bozeman community and around the state when deliberating the sentence, but also said that Gianforte’s unprovoked attack overshadowed that.Jacobs, wearing a suit and new pair of glasses that replaced the ones broken in the attack, read to the court from a prepared statement.”I should not have responded in the way that I did”, Gianforte said.Jacobs captured the incident on audio, but Gianforte’s campaign originally blamed the reporter for the altercation.”I made a mistake and humbly ask for your forgiveness”, Gianforte wrote. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor assault is six months behind bars and a $500 fine. Gianforte said after trying to dodge a question.Gianforte screamed at Jacobs, demanded he leave and then tackled him to the ground – smashing his glasses, according to past reports.The reporter for the British publication had been covering Montana’s special congressional race among Republican Gianforte, Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks.Since the victim has accepted Gianforte’s apology, however, we see no reason why we can’t do the same.Despite his civil settlement, Gianforte is still facing a criminal charge.”While I have no doubt that actions like these were an aberration for Congressman-elect Gianforte personally, I worry that, in the context of our political debate, they have become increasingly common”, he said in court.While Gianforte said Monday he wants to put the incident behind him, his political opponents showed no signs of cooperating.Gianforte’s admitting to a “physical response to (Jacobs’) legitimate question” and saying in a letter to Jacobs that “you did not initiate any physical contact with me” is a direct contradiction to a statement the Gianforte campaign released the night of the assault.With Judge West’s decision to revoke Gianforte’s prison sentence, the Bozeman Republican effectively received a “get out of jail free” card.