UPDATE | Battery charge dismissed against W.Va. delegate in Capitol incident

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 1/27/20 @ 4:05 p.m.
A misdemeanor battery charge against a West Virginia delegate accused of storming through the House chamber door and striking a doorkeeper has been dismissed, the Kanawha County Circuit Clerk's Office said Monday.

Delegate Mike Caputo had been charged with misdemeanor battery after angrily storming through the House chamber door, which struck a doorkeeper. (Source: WV Legislative Photography)

The incident involving Delegate Mike Caputo happened in March 2019.

The incident was connected to an incident where a poster was displayed in the Capitol, showing an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 juxtaposed with an image of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Details about why the charge was dismissed were not included on the Circuit Court order.

UPDATE 9/9/19 @ 12:04 p.m.
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, our media partner WV MetroNews reports.

“I am not aware of any charge and have no comment at this time,” Caputo, D-Marion, said when contacted this morning by MetroNews.

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 did lose his committee assignments. The Legislature’s website shows those have been restored.

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.”

Caputo released the following statement Monday afternoon:

"I was very surprised and disappointed to learn today that I have been charged criminally regarding my actions back on March 1, 2019 at the West Virginia House of Delegates. 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. I will not be goaded into a battle of words in the press. I will let others speculate as to what prompted these charges to be brought. Tim DiPiero and Lonnie Simmons, of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC in Charleston, will be representing me and gathering some key evidence which the prosecutor’s office may not be aware of."

UPDATE 3/8/19 @ 11:15 p.m.
The law firm representing the doorkeeper who was injured last week at the West Virginia Capitol released a statement on Friday about the incident involving Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion.

It reads as follows:

"On March 1, 2019, Logan Casterline was injured due to the conduct of Delegate Mike Caputo while serving as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Delegate Caputo’s conduct on the premises was in no way justified. The actions of Delegate Caputo caused Mr. Casterline significant pain, requiring that he seek medical attention. He deserves to be compensated for this and all other damages he has sustained. Mr. Casterline has retained us, the law firm of Pritt & Pritt, PLLC, to represent him.

A number of inaccuracies need to be corrected. Allegations and misrepresentations have been circulated about Mr. Casterline in an attempt to distract from the offender, Delegate Caputo. Mr. Casterline is a high school graduate who is currently enrolled in college. Mr. Casterline is fully cooperating with all investigations into the actions Delegate Caputo.

In a recent radio interview Delegate Caputo made statements that do not accurately reflect the nature of what happened on March 1. The statements of Delegate Sharon Malcomb, as described in a recent media report, are largely consistent with what our investigation has uncovered so far.

Shortly, we intend to formally place all relevant parties on notice of our intention to seek all civil remedies available. We have no further comment at this time as to what precise course of action will be taken.

Regardless of whether Delegate Caputo’s actions were purposeful or just negligent, his outrageous conduct put an innocent man in the hospital. Regardless of whether Delegate Caputo was offended or not, no one deserves to endure what Mr. Casterline went through. When you live in a civil society, even when one is offended, aggression is not the answer."

UPDATE 3/8/19 @ 12:28 p.m.
Members of the House of Delegates voted to table two motions to discipline Del. Mike Caputo, who admitted to forcing open a chamber door in anger last week, hitting a young doorkeeper.

The first resolution would have expelled Caputo, D-Marion, for the remainder of his elected term in office. The motion to table that resolution passed 65-35.

The second would have resulted in censure, which is an official statement of disapproval. The motion to table that resolution passed 62-38.

Caputo publicly apologized for his actions last Saturday. He was removed from his committee assignments by Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

The resolution to expel Caputo was sponsored by Delegate Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley. Delegate Joe Jeffries, R-Kanawha, asked during this morning’s floor session to join as a co-sponsor.

“When the conduct of a member goes so far outside that which is expected of a representative of the citizens of this state, the remaining members must act to preserve the honor and credibility of that body. Not to act and repudiate such conduct destroys the credibility of the House and the faith of the people in their government,” Wilson’s resolution stated.

The resolution to censure Caputo had 27 Republican sponsors. The lead sponsor was Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley.

This started last Friday when Caputo and other Democratic delegates got angry over an anti-Muslim display that was part of “WV GOP Day” outside the House Chamber.

Caputo was the top Democrat in the House last Friday because Minority Leader Tim Miley was away. When tempers started to arise over the display, Caputo said he felt pressure to get inside the chamber to warn the Speaker and to cool down his caucus.

He said he stopped outside the front door when it was clear the daily prayer was going on. But then when he saw people moving to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, he again tried to get into the door but found it blocked.

“To be honest, I was a Pledge of Allegiance away from all of this not happening, and I deeply regret that,” he said earlier this week on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Little official information has been conveyed about the condition of the young doorkeeper, although multiple sources said he was at the Statehouse on Thursday. House spokesman Jared Hunt, like others, has cited medical privacy laws.

“That incident has been referred to the Capitol Police for investigation,” Hunt said last week. “Because this is a personnel matter, I cannot comment further.”

Two "House Resolutions" listed on the agenda for the West Virginia House of Delegates schedule Friday involve Del. Mike Caputo, D - Marion County.

One resolution seeks to censure Caputo, while the other seeks his expulsion.

Last Friday, Caputo admitted and apologized after he kicked in the door to the West Virginia House Chamber, injuring a doorkeeper. The doorkeeper was sent to the hospital to be evaluated.

The March 1 incident happened on a day when tensions were running high at the West Virginia Capitol. Click here for that story.

As a part of "GOP Day" outside the chamber doors, a woman set up a poster with an anti-Muslim sentiment that angered many delegates.

The resolution to expel Caputo says, in part:

"Whereas, on March 1, 2019, Delegate Mike Caputo engaged in verbal and physical conduct unbecoming of a representative of the people of West Virginia during the House Floor Session. As he attempted to enter the House Chamber during the time reserved for the pledge and prayer, he found the door being kept shut by an assistant doorkeeper. Despite being aware of the assistant doorkeeper's duties, Delegate Caputo deliberately and violently forced his way into the House Chamber, resulting in physical injury of the assistant doorkeeper and requiring him to seek medical attention.

Whereas, As Delegate Caputo entered the House Chamber, he addressed the injured doorkeeper in passing using disrespectful and vulgar language, saying "Open the G** D*** Door I am a member and I can come in any time I want." Prior to taking his seat, Delegate Caputo expressed no interest in the assistant doorkeeper's well-being."

You can read the full text here.

"I feel just as horrible about that as you could ever imagine," Caputo said on Saturday, the day after the incident.

Caputo issued an apology to the doorkeeper, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, and other delegates at the start of Saturday's session.

"I will do my best to rebuild your trust and your confidence in me because that's who Mike Caputo is," he said.

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