Greg Gianforte, Montana’s newest Republican congressman, will not face any jail time after assaulting a Guardian journalist last month. Last week, he issued a formal apology to the journalist, Ben Jacobs. In addition to the apology, he agreed to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The donation and apology ensured that Jacobs would not sue Gianforte, thereby settling all his civil claims. Jacobs also promised that he would not object if Gianforte entered a no-contest plea to the criminal charge, which would have allowed Gianforte to concede to the charge without admitting guilt. However, Gianforte’s lawyer stated that he did not agree to any such deal.
On Monday, in an arrangement Gianforte made with the judge, his arraignment and sentencing were held during one court appearance. He pled guilty to the assault misdemeanor and avoided any jail time – he could have been sentenced to up to six months. I don’t think that’s any surprise – none of us expected him to serve any time in jail, most rich people get off with a fine or two. However, in addition to a $385 fine, he was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.
Honestly, his sentence is more extreme than the majority of us thought it would be. The man is a billionaire who earned his money in software. His campaign drew in millions of campaign dollars. Apparently, the judge wanted to be certain that Gianforte learned some type of lesson that his money could not buy him. We don’t foresee him picking up trash on the side of the road for his community service, but the anger management sentence was a very nice surprise. The man is now a member of Congress and he should expect journalists asking him questions he does not appreciate every single day.
If he remains crime free for 180-days the conviction will be expunged from his record. We will see how well that anger management works out for him in the next six months. Journalists, take note.