Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin held a press conference Thursday afternoon regarding assault charges against GOP Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte.

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During the press conference, Sheriff Gootkin described the events that took place Wednesday evening at the campaign headquarters of Greg Gianforte, who is running for a Congressional seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who is now serving as Secretary of the Interior in the Trump administration. The timing of the incident could not have been worse, as today is the day of the election.

Sheriff Gootkin said that "at 5:08 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a report of an assault at Gianforte's campaign headquarters.  When Deputies arrived, Gianforte cooperated by providing an initial statement." After giving his statement, Gianforte left the premises. At that time, he was not under arrest and the investigation continued.

Due to the public attention that was drawn to the incident, multiple detectives were contacted to assist with the investigation. The alleged victim, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, was taken to the hospital and interviewed by detectives. At that time, witnesses were taken to the Law and Justice Center for interviews.

The detectives determined probable cause existed to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault.

The State of Montana has two assault charges.

1. "Assault  - A person commits the offense of assault if the person: purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another”. This is a misdemeanor.

2. "Aggravated Assault - A person commits the offense of aggravated assault if the person purposely or knowingly causes serious bodily injury to another or purposely or knowingly, with the use of physical force of contact, causes reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury or death in another”. This is a felony.

Detectives determined that the injuries sustained by the victim did not constitute the charge of Felony Aggravated Assault. Based on the facts gathered during the investigation, through interviews, and collection of evidence, probable cause existed to issue a Notice to Appear to Greg Gianforte for the offense of misdemeanor assault, for which he is ordered to appear by June 7th in Gallatin County Justice Court.

Sheriff Gootkin also took time to explain a $250 contribution he had made to the Gianforte campaign.

"I want to address my campaign contribution to Greg Gianforte back in March, when he announced his candidacy for US Congress. I apologize for not mentioning this in my press conference last night.  The reason it never crossed my mind was that we were busy investigating this incident.  There have also been questions and concerns that because of the contribution, there may be a conflict of interest and another agency should have investigated.  I respectfully disagree.  The citizens of Gallatin County elected me to do a job and this incident occurred in our county and was our responsibility to investigate.  The contribution made in March has absolutely nothing to do with my duties and responsibilities as the Gallatin County Sheriff or this investigation."

We will continue to follow this story as it develops.