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Montana congressman Gianforte sentenced for assaulting reporter

June 12 (UPI) — The newest member of the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty Monday to assaulting a reporter and must now undergo anger management counseling.

Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte pleaded to a misdemeanor count of assault in Gallatin County, Mont., Court Monday morning.

The charge stemmed from a confrontation the Republican candidate had with journalist Ben Jacobs on May 24, the day before Montana held its special election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the state’s at-large district.

“I grabbed his wrist. A scuffle ensued and he was injured,” Gianforte said in court Monday. “It was not my intention to hurt him.”

The judge called Gianforte’s actions “totally unacceptable” and sentenced him to a deferred six-month sentence, 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management. If he complies with the terms of the sentence, he could have the charge dismissed later this year.

An attorney for Gianforte said the congressman has paid Jacobs nearly $5,000 in restitution.

Even with the controversy, Gianforte won the special election with 50 percent of the vote over Democrat Rob Quist (44 percent) on May 25 in the state’s historically GOP at-large district. Gianforte, an unsuccessful candidate for governor last year, will take office later this month.

Democrats hoped to narrow the Republicans’ majority gap in the House with a win in Montana, as they similarly attempted in other special elections this year in Kansas and Georgia — votes that were considered by many as referendums on the administration of President Donald Trump.

The Georgia race will be decided in a runoff next week between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. Ossoff won the April election with 48 percent of the vote, but just missed reaching the 50 percent threshold that would have given him the seat outright. The runoff vote is expected to be close, with both candidates projected to earn between 49 and 51 percent of the vote. The district hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1974.

South Carolina will also hold a special election the same day, June 20, to replace Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney — and Utah will vote in November to replace the resigning Jason Chaffetz.

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