King's H2O splasher sentenced
A Colorado man was sentenced to a term of two years' probation and 200 hours of community service March 5 after an incident nearly a year ago in which he threw water at Congressman Steve King.
Chief U.S. District Judge Leonard Strand handed down a sentence of probation to 27-year-old Blake Gibbins of Lafayette, Colorado. On March 22 of last year, Gibbins -- an Iowa native -- happened to encounter the congressman at a Fort Dodge restaurant and, after confirming that the man was indeed King, tossed water on him.
King was uninjured in the incident, though he and another man at the table did get splashed. Gibbins was restrained by a customer, then arrested after police arrived.
Gibbins pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor count of assault on a congressman.
Judge Strand, for his part, was apparently uneasy with the no-jail plea agreement reached by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Gibbins' attorney -- he felt the sentence could be misinterpreted by the public as too lenient for what he described as a "disgusting and cowardly" act.
King himself was not present at the hearing and did not immediately offer comment.
Though a federal sentencing formula determined a prison sentence of up to six months was appropriate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Duax and defense attorney Paul Statler agreed in sentencing memorandums filed with the court that probation was appropriate.
It was a tough recommendation for the U.S. Justice Department, Duax said. King was not injured, he said, but the incident has affected how he feels in public.
Duax said Gibbins will face serious consequences besides prison. He now has a criminal conviction, which could disqualify him for jobs he applies for after completing college. Duax said he can't speak for everyone in the public, but Gibbins' prosecution in itself sends a message to others who may consider assaulting a congressman.
Statler said Gibbins would like to send an apology to King, but had not yet done so because a protection order prohibits him from contacting the congressman.
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