By Tommy Martino
BOZEMAN, Mont. (Reuters) - A Montana congressman-elect pleaded guilty on Monday to a criminal charge of assaulting a reporter, and the Republican was ordered to perform community service and receive anger management training.
Greg Gianforte, a wealthy former technology executive who campaigned on his support for President Donald Trump, attacked a reporter on May 24, the day before he won a special election to fill Montana's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gallatin County Judge Rick West sentenced Gianforte to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management classes.
The judge in Bozeman, Montana, also handed down a six-month deferred jail sentence, which Gianforte would avoid serving if he complies with the court's orders.
Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the U.S. edition of The Guardian newspaper, said Gianforte "body-slammed" him, breaking his eyeglasses, when the reporter posed a question about healthcare during a campaign event in Bozeman.
The altercation has been portrayed as a sign of the toxicity that has infused American politics. Critics of Trump say his strident criticism of the media has encouraged violence against journalists, while some of the president's supporters say reporters in general are unfair in their coverage.
Gianforte pledged in a letter last week to donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists and apologized to Jacobs.
Gianforte on May 25 defeated Democrat Rob Quist to fill the House seat vacated when Trump appointed Ryan Zinke as interior secretary.
(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia Osterman)