CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegate Mike Caputo has been charged with misdemeanor battery after angrily storming through the House chamber door, which struck a doorkeeper. Caputo is also accused of making physical contact with Delegate Sharon Malcolm.
“I have already apologized for losing my temper that day, but I certainly didn’t intend to physically hurt anyone and don’t believe I committed a crime,” Caputo, D-Marion, stated.
Caputo said he has hired Charleston lawyers Tim DiPiero and Lonnie Simmons to represent him. He said they will be “gathering some key evidence which the prosecutor’s office may not be aware of.”
This is the second lawmaker to be charged with a misdemeanor in recent weeks. Senator Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, faces three charges that he solicited prostitution. He has faced calls to step down, but has made no comment.
The charge against Caputo is fallout from an angry incident that happened last spring at the Capitol.
What happened contributed to tension toward the end of the regular session, as delegates considered resolutions to expel or censure Caputo. Both were tabled.
Caputo’s anger was sparked March 1 during GOP Day at the Legislature because of a poster that showed an image of an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 juxtaposed with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is a native of Somalia. Pamphlets described “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest” and “Readin’, Writin’ and Jihadin’.”
Caputo, speaking publicly minutes later to fellow delegates, acknowledged getting so angry he kicked the door to the chamber open during the start of each day’s session that includes a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I’m the one who kicked the door open. That’s how angry I was. I went over to that poster and I said it was a racist poster,” Caputo said then.
He later publicly apologized and also had a private conversation with the doorkeeper.
Caputo called it “probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my political career.”
The incident was investigated by the state Capitol Police.
A summons filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court says Caputo should make an initial appearance in court at 10 a.m. Sept. 30.
A criminal complaint by J.C. Chambers of the Capitol Police describes Caputo “making a commotion, talking loud and saying nasty things as he started up the steps.”
The front door to the House chamber is usually closed during the prayer that starts each morning’s floor session.
Witnesses said Caputo raised his hands, and began attempting to push it open and stated “open the GD door and nobody keeps me out.”
The investigators noted that the doors to the chamber have glass windows “and would have allowed for easy visibility into the same.”
Doorman Logan Casterline was struck as the door was forced open. After the incident, the complaint states, Casterline complained of pain and sought medical treatment.
Delegate Sharon Malcolm, R-Kanawha, was interviewed following the incident and stated that as the session was starting Caputo stepped around her and “advised her to get the ‘F’ out of his way.”
Malcolm told investigators that Caputo “then took his elbow and pushed her out of the way,” according to the complaint.
“She stated that she was out of his way and that he had to come up behind her in order to hit her with his elbow. She stated that he was already around her and had to turn to strike her. Delegate Malcolm stated that she wasn’t initially hurt, but she was sore.”
She later told Capitol Police that she sought medical attention for pain that she had been experiencing on the right side of her chest and shoulder.
“Delegate Malcolm has further advised that she has continued to experience pain and is still under physician’s care for this injury.”
Jared Hunt, spokesman for the House of Delegates, stated that the situation is currently a matter of criminal investigation.
“House leadership has not been involved in this matter since the date the incident occurred and was referred to Capitol Police, therefore we would refer any comment on the investigation or the decision to pursue a criminal charge to the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office,” Hunt stated.
The action continues to ripple through West Virginia politics, too.
Members of the state Republican Party last month voted on a resolution condemning Caputo’s actions.
“Resolved,” it said, “that the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee condemns the actions of Delegate Caputo as unacceptable and believes this delegate should have been censured. Hopefully the voters will agree.”
The Democratic Party sent out a statement today, seemingly making reference to the charges against Maroney and accusing Republicans of playing political games.
“While Republicans have done all they can to protect the criminals in their caucus, they’ve gone out of their way to try and defame Democratic Delegate Mike Caputo,” stated Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore.
“Delegate Mike Caputo is a good man and a good public servant. Everyone knows the accusations against him are nothing more than a politically motivated scheme to distract from the negative attention that Republicans have brought on themselves.”