WASHINGTON: US Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery in Florida on Tuesday after allegations that he forcefully grabbed a reporter at a campaign event.
Police in Jupiter, Florida, charged Lewandowski, 42, with intentionally grabbing and bruising the arm of Michelle Fields, a reporter at the time for the conservative news outlet Breitbart, when she tried to question Trump at a campaign event on March 8.
“Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge,” Trump’s campaign said in a statement. “He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.”
Police released a video showing the incident. It shows Fields walking alongside Trump, and Lewandowski grabbing her arm and pulling her backward as she tried to question the Republican candidate. Previous videos of the incident had been obscured by people in the crowd.
Campaign rallies for Trump, the billionaire businessmen who leads the race for the Republican nomination in the Nov. 8 presidential election, have been marked by rowdiness and occasional physical contact between protesters and supporters or security personnel.
Lewandowski was charged with simple battery, defined under Florida law as intentionally touching or striking a person against their will. For a first offense, it is a misdemeanor in the first degree, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a fine of $1,000.
A court date was set for May 4, according to the police report. Jupiter police said Lewandowski turned himself in to police, and he was issued a notice requiring him to appear in court and then released. He was not booked into the jail.
Lewandowski’s lawyer, Scott Richardson of West Palm Beach, Florida, declined to comment on whether his client would step down as campaign manager. Lewandowski will also be represented by Kendall Coffey, a Miami lawyer, the campaign said.
Lewandowski had previously claimed on Twitter that he never touched Fields, calling her “delusional” in a post on March 11 and denying that he had ever met her. Trump said at the time that he was told nothing had happened at the event, and said the incident was “in my opinion, made up.”
Fields resigned from Breitbart less than a week after the incident, citing what she said was the online news outlet’s refusal to stand behind her amid the allegations. –AFP