Gianforte mugshot

Greg Gianforte mugshot from misdemeanor assault conviction.

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A judge released U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte’s mugshot on Wednesday after multiple news organizations asked for the photo.

Gallatin County District Judge Holly Brown ruled that the congressman’s booking photo could be released to seven media outlets, including the Chronicle.

The photo was taken after a judge ordered he get his mugshot and fingerprints taken as part of his misdemeanor assault conviction.

In the picture, taken at the Gallatin County jail on the morning Aug. 25, a smiling Gianforte is wearing a dark suit jacket with an American flag pin while standing in front of a brick wall.

Jason Jarrett, jail commander, said that Gianforte’s mugshot was taken no differently than anyone else who is booked into the Gallatin County Detention Center.

“This is the standard,” Jarrett said of the photo, “and has been for a couple of years.”

Gianforte, 56, pleaded guilty to the charge after he admitted to assaulting Guardian newspaper reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of Montana’s special election in May.

At a June hearing where Gianforte pleaded guilty to the charge, Justice Court Judge Rick West gave him a six-month deferred sentence, ordering that he also complete 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger-management counseling and pay $385 in fines and fees. Additionally, he paid $4,464.97 in restitution to Jacobs.

Also as part of the sentence, West ordered Gianforte to report to the Gallatin County jail to have his mugshot and fingerprints taken.

Gianforte’s defense team objected, filing a motion asking that the judge strike that obligation. They argued that Justice Court judges in Montana don’t have discretion to order booking information for a defendant like Gianforte, who was never arrested but only charged with the misdemeanor.

However, West ultimately denied the motion, ruling in August that Gianforte must report to the jail for his mugshot and fingerprints. A week later, the congressman complied and was briefly booked at the jail.

However, the photo was not released to the public at that time. Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert argues that mugshots are confidential criminal justice information and require a judge’s order to be released.

Seven media outlets requested the photo the day Gianforte took it. Neither Gianforte nor Lambert objected to the release.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Gianforte spokesman Travis Hall said that the congressman is “committed to transparency” and would have provided the photo to the media on his own in August if the law allowed it.

“Instead, Greg volunteered the release of the information and has worked to ensure it is available to the public,” Hall wrote in the statement. “Since being elected in May, Greg remains focused on serving as a strong voice for Montana in Washington.”

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Whitney Bermes can be reached at wbermes@dailychronicle.com or 582-2648. Follow her on Twitter at @wabermes.

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