WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign manager will not be prosecuted on a misdemeanor battery charge after prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of forcibly grabbing a female reporter, according to a court document filed Thursday.
Police had last month charged Corey Lewandowski after determining that a video recording showed the New York City resident grabbed reporter Michelle Fields by the arm. She worked for the conservative Breitbart News website at the time and was trying to ask Trump a question after a March 8 appearance. Fields later tweeted a photograph of her bruised forearm and said she had been yanked backward.
“Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution,” according to a court document filed by state attorney Dave Aronberg.
Lewandowski had denied grabbing Fields and the Republican presidential candidate had stood by him, rejecting calls by his opponents to fire him. Instead he went after Fields, accusing her of exaggerating and changing her story.
The investigation proved, however, that Lewandowski “pulled Ms. Fields back” as she attempted to interview Trump, according to a memo by another prosecutor, Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis. The memo says that Lewandowski could have believed Fields was “making unwanted physical contact with Mr. Trump” that led him to pull her away.
“Mr. Lewandowski may have had apparent authority to assist in the protection of the candidate, specifically to maintain the ‘protective bubble’ around the candidate,” Ellis wrote. “While the facts support the allegation that Mr. Lewandowski did grab Ms. Fields’ arm against her will, Mr. Lewandowski has a reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”
At a Wisconsin campaign rally hours after Lewandowski was charged, Trump read Fields’ account aloud: “Maybe he touched (her) a little bit, but I didn’t see,” Trump told the crowd. “It was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, right?”
Fields weighed in on Twitter: “My story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying.”
She quit Breitbart shortly after the altercation, saying its editors didn’t support her as they tried to maintain their relationship with Trump. Other Breitbart employees also quit.
The prosecutor’s announcement came days before the New York primary next Tuesday. Trump hopes New York marks an end to the worst period of his candidacy, a stretch that raised new questions about his policy chops and revealed his campaign’s lack of preparedness for a potential delegate fight if the GOP race heads to a contested convention.
Corrects earlier version that incorrectly identified Dave Aronberg as the spokesman for the state attorney.