BOZEMAN, Mont. - Montana's next congressman, Greg Gianforte, has been given a 180-day deferred jail sentence after the Republican technology entrepreneur pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter on the eve of his election last month.
Justice of the Peace Rick West sentenced Gianforte on Monday for the misdemeanor, ordering him to complete 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management counseling and pay a $385 fine.
Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs says Gianforte "body slammed" him when he tried to ask the candidate for the state's sole U.S. House seat a question on May 24.
Jacobs agreed not to sue Gianforte in exchange for the politician writing a letter of apology and donating $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Gianforte is expected to be sworn in to office later this month.
During the court proceeding, Jacobs read a statement to Judge West describing Gianforte's actions when he asked the congressman elect about health care.
"Mr. Gianforte's response was to slam me to the floor and start punching me. He hurt my elbow. He broke my glasses," Jacobs said.
Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert says Gianforte's offense didn't end there.
"The hardest thing (for Jacobs) was to have to listen to the fiction that was put out from Gianforte's campaign with regards to the facts of the assault," Lambert explained.
Gianforte later apologized in a letter to Jacobs and did so again in the courtroom. However, he did not recount what exactly happened between him and Jacobs even after the judge pressed him.
West originally sentenced Gianforte to four days in jail with the expectation he would serve the time in a county work program. That was taken back when West learned Gianforte was not eligible for the program because of his assault charge.
On his way out of the courthouse Gianforte refused to answer questions from reporters on why his original account of the assault was different than what he later admitted. He also refused to answer the question about health care Jacobs originally asked.