- Associated Press - Monday, February 4, 2019

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Bozeman lawmaker has introduced a bill to increase the penalties for assaulting journalists just hours before U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte is scheduled to address the Montana House.

Democratic Rep. Tom Woods said Monday his bill goes beyond the case against Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a reporter on the eve of the May 2017 special election.

Woods says his bill is critical to protect a free press. He proposes increasing the maximum penalty for misdemeanor assault from a $500 fine and six months in jail to up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail if the victim is a working journalist.

Woods says journalists should be protected because they are necessary to a functioning republic.

Woods briefly sought the Democratic nomination for Gianforte’s seat in 2018 before withdrawing from the race.

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