Giuliani on defensive after uproar over assault claim

NEW YORK: Two days after Rudy Giuliani claimed a worker had assaulted him at a Staten Island supermarket, the once-vaunted former mayor was spending Tuesday morning like many men his age: complaining about his aches and pains.

Giuliani on defensive after uproar over assault claim

Giuliani on defensive after uproar over assault claim

published : 29 Jun 2022 at 16:25

writer: New York Times

Former New York City mayor and lawyer for former President Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani greets fans as people gather for the "Empowering Michigan 2022" Michigan GOP members convention at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 23, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

NEW YORK: Two days after Rudy Giuliani claimed a worker had assaulted him at a Staten Island supermarket, the once-vaunted former mayor was spending Tuesday morning like many men his age: complaining about his aches and pains.

“My shoulder hurts like hell and I’ve got a big lump on the back,” he said, smiling incongruously as he spoke to an audience of reporters and supporters in a Facebook broadcast from an indeterminate location. “And I don’t complain.”

Despite the video that quickly emerged showing that the supermarket worker in question had merely tapped Giuliani on the back, and despite a Staten Island prosecutor’s decision to reduce the charges against the man from a felony to misdemeanours, Giuliani held fast to his narrative: He was attacked, the city has gone to seed, and only his son, a candidate for governor with scant relevant experience, could make New Yorkers safe again.

Little or none of this appeared to be true.

The strange political afterlife of Rudy Giuliani is one of the most told stories in United States politics: The man who was once “America’s mayor,” leading the nation’s biggest city through its worst terrorist attack, has since tried to overturn the results of a presidential election, gotten caught splayed on a bed and adjusting his pants in a satirical documentary, and on Sunday, gotten a supermarket worker jailed after claiming he had been assaulted and almost knocked down.

“The question is how low can you go?” asked Ken Frydman, a public relations professional who worked as Giuliani’s spokesperson during his 1993 campaign for mayor. “I don’t know if we’ve seen the bottom for Rudy.”

Giuliani’s allegation quickly proved problematic. Video footage first obtained by the New York Post showed the supermarket worker, Daniel Gill, patting Giuliani on the back, seriously undermining Giuliani’s claim that he had been almost knocked down, and weakening the credibility of his son, Andrew Giuliani, who had amplified his father’s accusation on the campaign trail.

Prosecutors downgraded the charges against Gill from second-degree assault, a felony, to third-degree assault, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing. Gill spent more than 24 hours in police custody, according to his lawyers.

When reached at his mother’s number Tuesday, Gill declined to comment, citing those lawyers’ advice. But he suggested he might have more to say soon.

In the meantime, he is not lacking for advocates.

“There’s no crime there,” said Hermann Walz, a former New York City prosecutor and current adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

For an altercation to qualify as assault in the third degree — the main charge ultimately filed by the district attorney of Staten Island — there must be an intent to cause injury to a person and an actual physical injury, Walz said.

“I could punch you in the face, and that wouldn’t be physical injury in New York, unless I broke your nose or something like that,” Walz said.

He added that Gill’s behaviour could qualify as harassment, but that he found even that notion questionable.

“This is New York; being called a ‘scumbag,’ if that’s a crime, we’re all going to jail soon,” Walz said, alluding to the slur Gill allegedly hurled at Rudy Giuliani.

In a text message from an aide, Giuliani continued to stand by his story Tuesday.

“If the video was lateral, you may have seen the force,” he said. “I was moved a few steps forward. I now have swelling above my left scapula, and my left arm hurts.”

The police department’s initial recommendation of felony assault charges was based on Giuliani’s complaint and the age difference between Gill, 39, and Giuliani, 78, city officials said.

On Tuesday, Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, said prosecutors should turn their attention to Giuliani for falsely reporting a crime.

“I think the district attorney, he has the wrong person that he’s investigating,” Adams said in Harlem. “To falsely report a crime is a crime. If that video wasn’t there, then this person would have been charged with punching the former mayor.”

Adams said he was speaking with the police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, about whether Giuliani’s actions were criminal. A spokesperson for Michael McMahon, the Staten Island district attorney, declined to comment.

It was a turn of events that put Adams on the same side as the Legal Aid Society, a public defenders’ group with which the mayor sometimes duels.

“We agree with Mayor Adams, a former police officer with over 20 years on the force, that this was simply just a pat on the back,” said Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for the group, which is representing Gill.

The incident was noteworthy for its setting — the supermarket in question sits in a conservative bastion on the South Shore of Staten Island.

Joseph Borelli, the local councilman, who served as an honourary state chair for the Trump campaign, described the area as “a predominantly white, conservative neighbourhood comprised of mostly city workers and small-business owners.”

Notably, he declined to comment directly on Giuliani’s allegations.

“If a crime was committed, the district attorney will handle it,” Borelli said.

In the two days since Giuliani made his claims, the former mayor has broadcast several times on Facebook Live. During one of those appearances, on Tuesday morning, Giuliani denounced Adams as an “idiot.”

“What if we didn’t have the video?” Adams asked Tuesday. “This person would have been accused with a serious crime when all he did was pat the guy on the back. You can’t do sensationalism to carry out your own agenda, and you can’t use the police to carry out your own agenda.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Do you like the content of this article?