Update: Florida officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, will not be prosecuted for battery for laying his hands on a journalist at a campaign event last month.
In court documents explaining the decision not to move forward with the case, the prosecution wrote that although “there is no reasonable doubt” that Lewandowski did indeed pull former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields by her arm as she alleged, ultimately Lewandowski had a “reasonable hypothesis of innocence” that would have been unlikely to be disproved in court. Here’s the most important part of the three-page document:
First, in reviewing the video recording, Mr. Trump appears to react to Ms. Fields by pulling his arm back and away from her. This reaction could have reasonably led Mr. Lewandowski, following behind the two and from his vantage point, to legitimately believe that Ms. Fields was making unwanted physical contact with Mr. Trump, which caused Mr. Lewandowski to react by pulling her away. Second, as Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Mr. Lewandowski may have had apparent authority to assist [Secret Service agents] in the protection of the candidate, specifically to maintain the ‘protective bubble’ around the candidate. It should be noted, however, that one agent was positioned directly behind Ms. Fields and appeared to show no concern over her actions. Mr. Lewandowski could have called this agent’s attention to her actions before taking action himself, if he considered her a threat. In addition, soon after the incident Mr. Lewandowski publicly denied ever touching Ms. Fields in any way. While these factors might weigh against the claim that his actions were justified in defense of Mr. Trump, they do not outweigh the reasonable hypothesis of innocence based on the real time facts and circumstances recorded on the video.
Original post, April 14, 2016, 7:20 a.m.: Donald Trump’s combative campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, will not be prosecuted for battery for laying his hands on a journalist at a campaign event last month, according to Politico’s unnamed sources:
The decision not to press charges against Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to be announced on Thursday afternoon by Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg. [Former Breitbart reporter Michelle] Fields may still pursue a defamation case against Lewandowski, a source said. …
Aronberg would not comment, but in a POLITICO interview last week, he pointed out that Jupiter police had a low “probable cause” standard to cite Lewandowski for battery. But the responsibility for moving forward with a full-blown prosecution rested with Aronberg’s office, which had to consider whether a crime occurred and whether they believed a jury of Floridians would prosecute. “We have a higher standard to go forward with a prosecution,” he said.
The report was subsequently confirmed by CNN, which also adds that the “state attorney’s office tried to broker a deal in which Lewandowski would agree to publicly apologize to Fields instead of facing prosecution.” Fields suggested on Twitter on Wednesday night after news of the decision first broke that she had been on board with the apology compromise—but it appears as though Lewandowski was not.
The incident in question occurred at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on March 8, the night of the Michigan primary (which Trump won). Fields accused Lewandowski of grabbing and pulling her with enough force to leave bruises on her arm after a press conference—allegations that Lewandowski vehemently denied by saying that he “never touched” the reporter, who he called “delusional” for good measure. Security footage later released by Jupiter police, however, clearly showed Lewandowksi grabbing and pulling Fields by the arm, and the campaign manager was charged with simple battery as a result.
During the weekslong dispute over exactly what happened and why, Trump made a show of standing by his man, even as his defense shifted in the face of new evidence. The GOP front-runner even brought Lewandowski (along with a cast of other unsavory characters) on stage at his victory speech the following week in Florida, and later suggested that Fields—again, a reporter—posed an actual security threat because she was holding a pen. Lewandowski has since seen his role with Trump’s campaign shrink somewhat, though that decision reportedly was made with an eye toward a contested convention, not because of his legal trouble.
Elsewhere in Slate:
- A Week on the Trail With the “Disgusting Reporters” Covering Trump
- If Michelle Fields Isn’t Safe From Trump’s Smear Machine, No Woman Is
- Why Trump Won’t Fire Corey Lewandowski, and Why It Will Be His Undoing