UPDATED AT 8:00 P.M.
By Bill Estep and Josh Kegley – firstname.lastname@example.org
A volunteer for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul faces a fourth-degree assault charge after the man stepped on the head of a liberal activist when she tried to pull a political stunt on Paul Monday evening.
Police said Tuesday that a criminal summons would be served on Timothy Profitt, 53, of Bourbon County.
Profitt told the Herald-Leader that he was concerned the woman was trying to attack Paul and acted only to subdue her.
“The way she went after him it looked like something bad was getting ready to happen,” Profitt said.
However, the activist with MoveOn.org, Lauren L. Valle, 23, said her rough treatment by Paul supporters was premeditated.
Several Paul supporters got behind her just before the incident and another MoveOn.org volunteer heard one say, “We are here to do crowd control (and) we might have to take someone out,” Valle told the Huffington Post, a liberal blog.
For his part, Paul’s campaign issued a statement condemning Profitt’s actions — without naming him — and saying it had cut ties with him.
“Whatever the perceived provocation, any level of aggression or violence is deplorable, and will not be tolerated by our campaign,” the statement said.
Profitt was one of two Bourbon County residents listed as important Central Kentucky supporters of Paul in an ad that appeared in Tuesday’s Herald-Leader.
Paul’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, said in a statement he was shocked to see a Paul supporter “stomping the head of a woman” and called the action “thuggish behavior.”
“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,” Conway said.
The incident is the latest in a long string of odd or controversial turns in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race that have caused an uproar on the Internet and made national news.
The political ramifications are hard to gauge, but the incident might work in Conway’s favor, said Laurie Rhodebeck, a political scientist at the University of Louisville.
“It could help get the enthusiasm level up among Democrats,” Rhodebeck said.
Lexington police said the alleged assault happened Monday evening about 7 p.m. in front of the studio of Kentucky Educational Television on Cooper Drive, where Paul and Conway were scheduled to debate at 8 p.m.
The stomping was one of two reported to Lexington police outside the debate, where scores of supporters of both candidates had gathered in the parking lot for a rally.
Paul supporter Marsha Foster, 49, reported that earlier in the night a person had intentionally stomped on her broken foot, causing “minor visible injuries,” according to a police report. Foster could not be reached for comment.
Valle was there to give Paul a fake “employee of the month” award from RepubliCorp — a fictitious company name MoveOn uses to allege a merger of the Republican Party and big business.
The organization has been using the name to illustrate that business-related groups are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns around the country in an effort to help Republicans take control of Congress.
MoveOn is paying Valle, a recent graduate of Columbia University in New York, to get out the group’s message in Kentucky’s Senate race, said Ilyse Hogue, a MoveOn spokeswoman.
MoveOn activists have done events around the country as part of the campaign. One goal is to get photos to post on its Web site. Valle told police she was trying to get a photo with Paul.
Video footage shot by WDRB-TV in Louisville shows Valle, wearing a blond wig, moving toward Paul after he got out of a vehicle in front of KET. At least two men in the crowd can be seen grabbing her and pulling her to the ground.
Then, a man holding a Paul sign puts his foot on her shoulder and pushes down forcefully on her neck and head while several people tell bystanders to get police.
Valle told police the men “intentionally forced her to the ground and began kicking her in the head,” according to a police report.
On Tuesday, Profitt confirmed he is the man shown putting his foot on Valle, but he said he did not stomp or kick her, and did not intend to hurt her.
Profitt said Valle moved in an “aggressive” manner as she tried to get close to Paul, but Paul supporters held her back and called for police.
Then, Profitt said, Valle got loose and ran toward Paul a second time. Paul supporters again held her, but she went down on her own to make it look like she was being pushed down, Profitt said.
When she was on the ground, Profitt put his foot on her. “I said, ‘Now you stay down,’” he said.
Profitt said he and others were only trying to subdue Valle because of the potential threat to Paul.
Profitt apologized, but also blamed MoveOn for forcing the incident.
“It was actually like a self-defense thing, the way I see it,” said Profitt, who is retired.
He also said Paul supporters told police Valle might be up to something before the incident and asked officers to escort Paul through the crowd, but they said that wasn’t their job.
Sherelle Roberts, spokeswoman for Lexington police, said police couldn’t have interfered because the woman did not do anything illegal.
“It’s not illegal to take a picture with somebody,” Roberts said.
Valle told the Huffington Post that supporters of Paul started grabbing for her and she ran to get away from them.
“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,” Valle said on the Web site.
In an interview on Fox News Tuesday, Paul described a chaotic situation when he arrived.
“It really was something where you walk into a daze of lights flashing, people yelling and screaming, bumping up. There was a bit of a crowd control problem,” Paul said. “I don’t want anybody, though, to be involved in things that aren’t civil. I think this should always be about the issues. 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.”
Hogue, the MoveOn.org spokeswoman, said Valle suffered a concussion and sprained arm and shoulder and spent the night in a Lexington hospital.
She was staying in Kentucky Tuesday with a MoveOn member, who Hogue declined to identify.
“She’s hurting” and may not return to the campaign trail, Hogue said.
Hogue scoffed at the notion that Paul’s supporters needed to protect him from Valle.
Valle wasn’t the only one outside KET who faced hostility from Paul supporters, Michael J. Grossman, a corporate official in Lexington, said in an e-mail to the Herald-Leader.
A Paul supporter also tried to “take me down” just after Valle was attacked, then berated him, said Grossman, who had a Conway sign.
“It was a relatively calm political event until the Rand Paul people simply went nuts when their candidate arrived,” Grossman said. “By and large they appeared to be a very hostile group of people who were looking for trouble, and I guess they got it.”
MoveOn has bought television ads supporting Conway. However, the organization does not coordinate its activities with candidates, Hogue said.
The alleged assault touched off a furor of statements and commentary from the left and right.
Internet sites across the political and media spectrum rushed to post video footage of the incident, and Democrats denounced the treatment of Valle.
“What I saw last night was not politics, it was an angry mob,” state Sen. Denise Harper Angel, a Louisville Democrat, said on a conference call arranged by the Kentucky Democratic Party.
On the right, conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh called Valle a “professional agitator” and suggested she would have fared worse if she’d rushed at President Obama.
In May, Valle and six other Greenpeace volunteers were arrested during a protest in Louisiana of offshore oil drilling following the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the organization announced.