Elections

Political scuffle still under investigation

The investigation of an alleged assault on a liberal activist by supporters of Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul continued Wednesday as Lexington police worked to identify those involved.

"We're trying to look at the totality of the situation," said Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts.

Roberts said police are trying to determine how others were involved in the incident and whether they should be charged.

She confirmed that police have contacted Mike Pezzano, a Lexington man who has been identified as one of at least two men who brought the activist to the ground outside the studios of Kentucky Educational Television on Monday night.

No charges have been filed against Pezzano, and Roberts couldn't say when or if any additional charges might come.

Efforts to reach Pezzano for comment were not successful, but he told WKYT-TV he does not condone the actions of Timothy Profitt, 53, of Bourbon County, who stepped on the head of MoveOn.org activist Lauren L. Valle, 23, as she tried to pull a political stunt.

Profitt, who said he was concerned the woman was trying to attack Paul and acted only to subdue her, faces a criminal summons that could lead to a fourth-degree assault charge.

The altercation happened prior to a debate between Paul and Democratic nominee Jack Conway.

The Conway campaign continued to pound Paul Wednesday over the incident.

Conway campaign spokesman John Collins said during a telephone news conference that Paul's campaign should divulge the identities of other men who "wrestled the woman down to the ground" before she was stomped on and should return the $1,900 in campaign contributions from the man who kicked the activist.

Paul will not return any contributions from Profitt, said campaign manager Jesse Benton.

Benton said a Fox News report Tuesday night that said the money would be returned was incorrect.

"The Fox reporter was misinformed. We never said that, and never return campaign contributions," Benton said in an e-mail.

The Paul campaign, which condemned the attack Tuesday afternoon and cut its ties to Profitt, said the Conway campaign is attempting to use the incident in "a desperate attempt to distract voters from the issues facing Kentucky."

"The Paul campaign condemned the incident far before Conway's camp ever addressed it and decisively severed all ties with the supporter in question," Benton said in a statement on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Profitt told some reporters that Valle owes him an apology.

Ilyse Hogue, director of political advocacy and communications for MoveOn.org, said she was "offended and outraged" by Profitt's suggestion that he is owed an apology.

"Profitt said the attack was 'not a big deal,' that Lauren 'instigated it' and that 'she should apologize' — words that are eerily familiar to many women who have faced assault and abuse," Hogue said in a statement. "Lauren's exercise of her First Amendment rights cannot possibly justify the violence against her any more than a woman's clothes can excuse a sexual assault."

During his news conference, Collins called the Paul campaign's response to the incident "tepid at best."

"... I think what was disturbing and troubling for our campaign was the way their response morphed and evolved over the day," Collins said.

Collins noted Paul first said Tuesday morning on Fox News that the incident was "a crowd-control problem" and that "enthusiasm on both sides" was at the heart of the problem.

"Anybody who has seen the video of what happened can see that it was clearly one-sided and it was not a crowd control problem but rather a mob, thuggish mentality of some of the Rand Paul supporters," Collins said.

Valle, a recent graduate of Columbia University in New York, said she thinks the altercation was premeditated. Valle said she was trying to give a satirical award to Paul dealing with the relationship between Republicans and businesses.

The altercation was caught on video, which was featured on hundreds of Web sites around the nation Tuesday.

On Wednesday, RedState.com posted video of Valle's first attempt to get near Paul as his vehicle was pulling up to KET. Valle is seen moving quickly toward Paul's vehicle and shoving a sign very close to his face. At that point, she is pushed away from Paul's vehicle by several men.

Also, Lexington Tea Party organizer and blogger Mica Sims wrote Wednesday that police told her Monday night at KET that Valle and her male companion "are going to jail for giving police officers fake identification."

Police spokeswoman Roberts confirmed Valle and a man did not initially give police "clear and accurate spelling" of their names, which meant police were not able to find them in a national identification system.

After the two were informed that providing inaccurate information to an officer could lead to a criminal charge, Roberts said, "they cooperated and were not arrested."

Roberts said no officer ever said anybody was going to jail. She said it is left up to an officer to decide whether to arrest someone for giving false information.

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