Just when you thought that this campaign season could not get more weird, Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been charged with misdemeanor battery over allegations he grabbed the arm of then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. A video does in fact show Lewandowski grabbing the arm of Fields though it seemed to pass fairly quickly (though Fields showed a bruise left in the aftermath). Most people would not view the encounter as battery and the delay in reporting the alleged crime may be raised at trial. That might not matter for the misdemeanor charge given the definition, as discussed below. The video is also below.
The alleged assault occurred after a March 8 press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla. Lewandowski initially denied the incident and told Fields over Twitter that he had never even met her. The resulting police report stated Lewandowski “grabbed Fields left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back.”
The Florida code defines battery quite broadly:
784.03 Battery; felony battery.—
(1)(a) The offense of battery occurs when a person:
1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who commits battery commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(2) A person who has one prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery and who commits any second or subsequent battery commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. For purposes of this subsection, “conviction” means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld or a plea of nolo contendere is entered.
The picture from the reporter shows a bruise on her arm which the police clearly felt satisfied the condition of bodily harm. Yet, Lewandowski could argue that he was merely trying to give his candidate room and, as aides often do, trying to keep media at a distance. With the surging crowd, an effort to create a barrier to Trump could have unintentionally resulted in a more forceful tugging of the arm. On the other hand, Fields maintained that it was a painful grab that left her in pain. She later posted a statement wondering if these bruises appeared magically after the denial by Lewandowski:
Here are the charge sheets and the video:
Fields later resigned over what she saw as insufficient support from the conservative news site — a view shared by Editor-at-large Ben Shapiro who also resigned. In the meantime, Trump continues to support Lewandowski as innocent of the charges. Indeed, Trump says that Field grabbed him first and his aide was trying to help him.
A jury or even a judge may find this to be much to do about nothing. What do you think?