8 June 2017 — 0653 mdt
Did Greg Gianforte just buy off Ben Jacobs?
That argument can be made. According to the Missoulian, The Guardian reporter Jacobs and Representative-elect Gianforte reached a civil agreement in which Gianforte donates $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In exchange, Jacobs (a) releases all future claims against Gianforte, and (b) sent the Gallatin County Attorney an email stating he would not object to Gianforte’s pleading no contest to the misdemeanor assault charge he still faces. Gianforte asked for the “I won’t object” email.
The agreement reveals Gianforte’s legal strategy, and establishes Jacobs as a man whose silence can be bought.
The nolo contendere plea offers certain legal advantages, according the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute:
Nolo contendere [is] Latin for “no contest.” In a criminal proceeding, a defendant may enter a plea of nolo contendere, in which he does not accept or deny responsibility for the charges but agrees to accept punishment. The plea differs from a guilty plea because it cannot be used against the defendant in another cause of action. For example, pleading nolo contendere to criminal charges side steps possible estoppel claims from being filed in a civil lawsuit. Nolo contendere pleas differ from Alford pleas in this regard. See Alford plea.
But why would Jacobs agree not to object to a plea of no contest? As a private citizen, he cannot veto another man’s plea in court. Nor can he do so as the victim of the alleged assault. He can certainly tell the court “That no-good #%!!!!!’s guilty as hell, and I object to his being allowed to plead no contest instead of guilty,” but the judge can ignore him. It appears to me that Jacobs has surrendered his right to criticize the court’s allowing Gianforte to plead no contest if indeed that’s what Gianforte pleads.
Gianforte has good lawyers, the best money can buy. Jacobs does not. Worse, he seems all too willing to give up his First Amendment rights.