GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump caused another media frenzy over comments he made during a series of interviews in the aftermath of news that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, had been charged with simple battery. The charge stems from an incident where Lewandowski allegedly grabbed the arm of former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields after a press conference in early March.
During interviews Tuesday night and Wednesday with almost all of the major news outlets, Trump defended Lewandowski’s actions and he dismissed the incident as “very minor,” telling reporters “practically nothing happened” and that he didn’t believe police should’ve brought charges in the case. But what really seemed to set people off is when Trump went a step further and suggested that he might press for charges himself over what happened.
“I’m sure there will be a counter-claim coming down the line,” Trump said in an interview Wednesday morning on Good Morning America. “Should I file charges against her because she touched my arm as well?”
While most people might dismiss Trump’s response as petty and absurd, an argument can be made that Trump may very well have a valid argument under Florida law. In fact, should Trump decide to go forward and file a report, it may very well force the Jupiter police department into the awkward position of having to file the charges in order to avoid the appearance that some sort of political motivations are at play with the Lewandowski case.
Here is why:
As LawNewz explained yesterday, the elements of simple battery are met when a person:
1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or
2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.”
According to the Florida Court of Appeals, the battery statute’s prohibition of an “intentional” touch or strike covers situations where a defendant knows that a touch or strike is substantially certain to result from his acts. In other words, it is the substantial certainty of a touching or striking that satisfies the intent element of battery statute. Furthermore, there is no requirement that the alleged victim be injured. All that matters is that the intentional touching is against the victim’s will.
Therefore, when Michelle Fields approached Trump and put herself in a position to be close enough where she (allegedly, according to Trump) touched Trump’s arm, against his will, it could be argued that her conduct satisfied the elements of the statute and that she could be charged with simple battery.
This is not meant to diminish Lewandowski’s conduct, because it was inappropriate, but it does seem to be a bit much to have gone forward with criminal charges in this case. Yes, the standard is low enough that charges were technically appropriate, but as was pointed out, the standard is also low enough that Fields could also potentially be charged for her conduct. The main point is to highlight the absurdity in all of this. In the vast majority of cases like this one, the matter would be addressed in a civil court, not a criminal one.
As a Florida appellate court recognized almost 30 years ago in another battery case involving a playground fight between two minor children, sometimes “matters are best handled on a personal and informal basis, not through the expensive, time-consuming judicial process.”
[image via shutterstock]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.