A North Carolina sheriff’s office has decided not to file charges against Donald Trump after it weighed charging the businessman with inciting a riot in connection with a supporter’s alleged assault against a protester during a rally last week.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday its investigation was “not complete” and that it was probing “the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot.”
“Our investigation is not complete as to the incidents of Wednesday, March 9, 2016,” the Sheriff’s office said in a statement, referring to the date of Trump’s rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
But in a statement several hours later, the department said the sheriff had concluded that “the evidence does not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina statute and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot.”
“Accordingly, we will not be seeking a warrant or indictment against Mr. Trump or his campaign for these offenses,” the statement said.
Police arrested 78-year-old John McGraw and charged him with assault on protester Rakeem Jones after multiple videos surfaced online showing McGraw attempting to punch Jones, hitting him in the face with his elbow.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks flatly rejected the premise of the investigation into Trump’s role in the violent altercation earlier Monday before the sheriff decided not to pursue charges.
“It is the protesters and agitators who are in violation, not Mr. Trump or the campaign,” Hicks said Monday in a statement.
Hicks added that Trump’s speech was “extremely well thought out and well received” and instead focused on the role of protesters, who she said “in some cases … used foul language, screamed vulgarities and made obscene gestures, annoying the very well behaved audience.”
“The people that stood were loud, rude and abrasive. On one occasion, while the police were escorting a young man out of the arena, he seemed to lift his hand and make an obscene gesture. We are told a 78-year-old man took great exception to this,” Hicks said, referring to McGraw’s alleged assault.
Sgt. Sean Swain said that while charges against Mr. Trump were “something we discussed,” the sheriff’s leadership quickly determined it did not have sufficient evidence to press charges.
Swain said Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called the sheriff’s office’s legal adviser to ask “if we were serious about” potentially charging Trump. The legal adviser told Lewandowski that the department was contemplating it, but that charges were unlikely, Swain told CNN.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is still weighing additional charges against McGraw, after they already added an additional charge of communicating threats. That came after an “Inside Edition” report showed McGraw threatening to kill Jones the “next time.”
Cumberland County Sheriff Earl R. Butler, first elected in 1994, is a registered Democrat, according to his official biography.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” Monday that “It’s important that law enforcement does a full investigation in situations like this.”
“However, I’m not concerned with the idea or the concept that the campaign or Mr. Trump had anything to do with any type of violence for that matter. We are in a situation where we have thousands of thousands of people who show up to Mr. Trump’s rallies and Mr. Trump cannot control the actions of an individual, and I think everyone would agree with that,” she said.
Trump said Sunday that he is weighing helping to pay for McGraw’s legal fees.
But on Monday, Trump repeated to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he does not condone violence at his events.
“No, I don’t like that. And we don’t condone that, Wolf. And I’ve said that numerous times,” Trump said, when asked about the North Carolina supporter who punched the protester.
“Now, with all of that being said, and I still don’t condone it, that young man walked up and he made a gesture in his air — in the air with one of his fingers, which was not good and was not nice and was very, very horrible to see also. But despite that, I don’t condone it and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.