Authorities in Florida have formally dropped the charges against Donald Trump’s campaign manager for grabbing the arm of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. While Palm Beach County prosecutors encourage Lewandowski to offer Fields an apology, they’ve concluded that “the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution.”
Police in Jupiter, Florida, had charged Lewandowski with simple battery after surveillance video at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort confirmed that the campaign manager had grabbed Fields during a press scrum. Although Fields tweeted a picture of her bruises, Trump defended Lewandowski, first saying Fields had made the incident up (false), then claiming she’d changed her story (also false). He then tried to frame himself as the victim, saying Fields could have been holding a “little bomb” (she was holding a pen).
Florida loosely defines battery as unwanted touching, and prosecutors said Thursday that there was probable cause for the charge. However, the contact documented is less violent than that which is typically prosecuted. “If you asked people to describe a battery, this certainly wouldn’t cut it,” Miami criminal-defense lawyer David Oscar Markus told Politico. “Not every minor interaction needs to go to court.”
On Thursday, Palm Beach County assistant prosecutor Adrienne Ellis told reporters that the charges were undermined by the fact that, in the moments before the infamous arm-grab, Fields had entered a “protective bubble” maintained by Secret Service agents, and made incidental contact with the candidate himself. (The prosecutors said that Trump had personally contacted them to inform them of Fields’s own act of unwanted touching, and urged them to “do the right thing.”)
“We’re not charging him [Lewandowski] because he was reacting to what he perceived as a potential threat,” Ellis said.
The case has had larger consequences for Fields, who quit her job at Breitbart in protest and received so many threats she was forced to leave her home. Fields tweeted that she had agreed to drop the charges in exchange for an apology two weeks ago, but had never heard from Lewandowski.
Palm Beach County state attorney David Aronberg told NBC News that Lewandowski’s lawyer had submitted a draft of a short apology earlier in the week. Aronberg said that while the apology did not influence his decision not to proceed with a prosecution, “had an apology been given at the beginning of all this, we could have avoided this mess.”