The state attorney in Palm Beach County on Thursday explained his decision not to prosecute Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, though he acknowledged he’s confident the aide grabbed a reporter last month.
Lewandowski was charged by police last month with battery for grabbing the arm of former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields after a campaign press conference in Florida on March 8.
“After reviewing the video recording there is no reasonable doubt Mr. Lewandowski pulled Ms. Fields back as she was attempting to interview Mr. Trump,” Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg said during a press conference Thursday.
But Aronberg explained he was uncertain a conviction against Lewandowski could be won. He said prosecutors’ “standard for filing criminal charges is higher than mere probable cause. We have the burden of proving each case beyond a reasonable doubt. In doing so, a prosecutor must have a good-faith basis that the evidence presented will sustain a conviction.”
Acknowledging “international attention to this case, which doesn’t exist in just about any other simple battery case,” Aronberg said Lewandowski could have prevented the blow-up if he had only apologized to Fields.
“I think that had an apology been given at the beginning of all this, we could have avoided the whole criminal justice process for this matter,” Aronberg said.
The prosecutor said attorneys for Lewandowski recently showed him a “draft of an apology” to send Fields though “it’s up to them to reach out to Ms. Fields and send it to her.”
He said an “apology, in a case like this, would be encouraged. It’s a good thing to have it. We always appreciate when people take responsibility for their actions.”
Aronberg said he spoke to Fields and “it was clear to us she was disappointed by this decision. … She wanted a prosecution to go forward.”
Trump’s campaign has defended Lewandowski by saying the aide was protecting Trump from Fields.
“Under these circumstances, it is not uncommon for a candidate’s inner circle staff members known to the agents to assist in clearing a safe pathway,” Aronberg said. “It should be noted however that one agent was positioned behind Ms. Fields and appeared to show no concern over her actions. Mr. Lewandowski could have called this agent’s attention to her movements before taking action himself if he considered her a threat.”
The Trump campaign released a statement after the press conference saying: “Corey Lewandowski is gratified by the decision to drop the misdemeanor charge and appreciates the thoughtful consideration and professionalism by the Palm Beach State Attorney and his staff who carefully reviewed this matter, as well as Mr. Trump’s loyalty and the support of his colleagues and family during this time. The matter is now concluded.”
Lewandowski and Trump’s campaign initially denied that the campaign manager even touched the reporter, saying Fields made it up. But after video was released from surveillance cameras clearly showing Lewandowski being the one who grabbed Fields, the campaign accused the reporter of exaggerating what happened.
The prosecutor noted Lewandowski’s initial denial. “Soon after the incident, Mr. Lewandowski publicly denied touching Ms. Fields in any way. Although these factors might undermine Mr. Lewandowski’s potential defense, they do not outweigh the reasonable hypothesis of innocence based on the real-time facts and circumstances recorded on the video,” Aronberg said.
Fields, who worked as a reporter for The Daily Caller in 2011 and 2012, stands by her characterization and says she is now contemplating filing a defamation lawsuit.
Here’s video of the encounter: