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Profile: Mike Pezzano
Mike Pezzano was a participant or observer in the following events:
A protester outside a Kentucky Senate campaign event is thrown to the ground and stomped by the candidate’s supporters. [Source: Huffington Post]Several supporters of Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) throw Lauren Valle, a supporter of Paul’s opponent, Jack Conway, to the ground and deliberately stomp her head. The entire incident, which takes place minutes before a debate between Paul and Conway, is caught on camera; videos of the incident are quickly posted on the Internet. The incident occurs shortly after Valle, a member of the liberal political activism group MoveOn.org, pushes her way through a crowd of Paul supporters to approach Paul while he is still in a vehicle approaching the debate. Valle is wearing a blonde wig and carrying a sign that reads, “Rand Paul Republicorps: Member of the Month,” and her intention is to either present Paul with a mock “employee of the month award” from the fake “Republicorps” (misidentified in some news reports as “Republicore”) for his alleged support of large corporations, or to be photographed holding the sign near him. Initially, Valle is blocked from approaching Paul by a security guard and several Paul supporters. Some of the supporters pursue Valle around parked cars, until one of them trips her and sends her falling to the ground. Another supporter yanks the wig from her head. While she is down, two supporters hold her to the ground while a third stomps on her head, shoulder, and neck. While the incident is occurring, others in the crowd shout, “Get the cops!” A Lexington police spokesman will later say his department had not anticipated any violence at the debate. The spokesman, Lieutenant Edward Hart, says, “She [Valle] worked for MoveOn.org—was a contract employee sent to the debate with MoveOn.org for the purpose of getting a picture with Dr. Paul with the sign.” Valle initially refuses medical treatment, but is later hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion and multiple sprains. She will later file an assault charge against at least one of her assailants. [Kentucky Post, 10/25/2010; Huffington Post, 10/25/2010; Louisville Courier-Journal, 10/25/2010; New York Daily Post, 10/26/2010; TPMDC, 10/26/2010; Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010] Joshua Green, a senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly, calls the attack “truly awful.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/25/2010] Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts says, “[A]t this point there doesn’t seem to be anything to justify how this incident unfolded.” [TPMDC, 10/26/2010]
Lauren Valle's Account of the Incident - Valle later tells a reporter that she has been to other Paul campaign events, and says Paul’s staff members have “expressed their distaste for my work before.” She calls the assault “premeditated,” and explains: “[A]bout five minutes before Rand Paul’s car arrived they identified me and my partner, Alex [Giblin], who was with me. They surrounded me. There was five of them. They motioned to each other and got behind me. My partner Alex heard them say, ‘We are here to do crowd control, we might have to take someone out.’ When Rand Paul’s car arrived a couple of them stepped in front of me, so I stepped off the curb to get around them to get back out front. At that point they started grabbing for me and I ran all the way around the car with them in pursuit. The footage [referring to the video of the incident posted on a number of news Web sites and blogs] is after I’ve run all the way around the car and I’m in front of the car, and that is when they took me down. One or two people twisted my arms behind my back and took me down.… It was about two to three seconds after that that another person stomped on my head. And I lay there for 20 seconds or so, and my partner Alex came and got me up, and that’s the point where there is the media clip of me speaking.” Valle later says in response to reports that she was not struck on the head: “My memory of them is sort of that of a traumatized person. I think it was my head. My head is in a lot of pain today; my neck is kind of kinked. But I distinctly remember a blow to my head.” She says she was able to give interviews to reporters immediately after the assault because the pain started in earnest about 90 minutes later. “I was in severe shock,” she says. [Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; New York Daily Post, 10/26/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010]
Three Paul Supporters Directly Participate in Assault - Valle’s assertion that there were “five” assailants is either inaccurate, or she is including people who chased her around the parked cars but did not throw her down and stomp her against the curb. The day after the assault, new footage is posted that clearly shows an assailant’s boot coming down forcefully on her head, neck, and shoulders. One of the two men holding Valle to the ground is wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” button, a symbol widely associated with the “tea party” movement. [TPMDC, 10/26/2010; Bob Layton, 10/26/2010] This man is later identified by local police officials as Mike Pezzano, a Paul supporter and gun rights advocate. The other man holding Valle down is not immediately identified. [Lexington Courier-Journal, 10/27/2010; TPMDC, 10/27/2010]
Stomper Charged, Identified as Paul Campaign Coordinator and Donor - The Lexington police later identify the man who initially stomped Valle as Tim Profitt, the Paul campaign coordinator for Bourbon County. Profitt will issue an apology to Valle, though he claims the camera angle makes the assault seem more violent than it was. He will state, “I’m sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand’s safety.” Profitt will later demand an apology from Valle (see October 26-29, 2010), and will also blame the police for not intervening to keep Valle away from Paul. Police confirm that Profitt is given a criminal summons. [Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; Huffington Post, 10/26/2010; Associated Press, 10/26/2010] He will be charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail, a $500 fine, or a combination of both. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/30/2010] Profitt is also a campaign donor, having given approximately $1,900 to Paul’s campaign along with $600 from his wife. Paul’s campaign will later refuse to return the donation (see October 26, 2010). Profitt is later dropped as Paul’s campaign coordinator and banned from future events. Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton says, “The Paul campaign has disassociated itself with the individual who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists—on both sides—to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.” [Associated Press, 10/26/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010; New York Daily News, 10/26/2010] Profitt later tells a reporter that he did not actually stomp Valle, he was merely using his foot to keep her on the ground. He cannot bend over because of back problems, he says (see October 26-29, 2010). “[I]f she can hear this,” he says, “[a]ll I was trying to do was hold her until police could get her.” He goes on to state that he believes Valle was at the rally to “hurt Rand Paul.” [WKYT, 10/26/2010]
Statements Issued - Following the incident, Paul’s campaign issues this statement: “We understand that there was an altercation outside of the debate between supporters of both sides and that is incredibly unfortunate. Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election. We are relieved to hear that the woman in question was not injured.” Shortly thereafter, MoveOn issues its own statement, which reads: “We’re appalled at the violent incident that occurred at the Kentucky Senate debate last night. Numerous news reports clearly show that the young woman—a MoveOn supporter—was assaulted and pushed to the ground by Rand Paul supporters, where one man held her down while another stomped on her head. This kind of violence has no place in American society, much less at a peaceful political rally. Our first concern is obviously Lauren’s health and well being. She is recovering, and we will release more details as we have them. We are concerned that no arrests have yet been made, and we hope those responsible will be brought to justice quickly, and that Rand Paul will join us in condemning this horrible act.” The next day, Paul tells a Fox News interviewer: “We want everybody to be civil. We want this campaign to be about issues. I will tell you that when we arrived there was enormous passion on both sides. It really was something where you walk into a haze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. And there was a bit of a crowd control problem. I don’t want anybody though to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. And it is an unusual situation to have so many people so passionate on both sides jockeying back and forth. And it wasn’t something that I liked or anybody liked about that situation. So I hope in the future it is going to be better.” Conway weighs in: “I was shocked to see video footage of a Rand Paul supporter stomping the head of a woman outside the debate last night. We can disagree on issues, and I don’t know what preceded the incident, but physical violence by a man against a woman must never be tolerated. It is my hope that steps have been taken to ensure this kind of thuggish behavior never happens again in this campaign.” [Huffington Post, 10/25/2010; Plum Line, 10/26/2010] The progressive news site TPMDC reports that Paul calls for civility, but refuses to explictly condemn the attack. [TPMDC, 10/26/2010] Conway later issues the following statement: “We are still waiting for Rand Paul to apologize to the victim of this attack. A boot stomp to the head of a woman is never appropriate. Rand should apologize to her, stop blaming others, and identify the others involved in this thuggish behavior and disassociate his campaign from them immediately.” [New York Daily News, 10/26/2010]
Entity Tags: Lauren Valle, MoveOn (.org), Joshua Green, Mike Pezzano, Jack Conway, Jesse Benton, Alex Giblin, Edward Hart, Rand Paul, Sherelle Roberts, Tim Profitt
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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