Charges dropped against WV pol in racist sign outburst

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia judge dropped charges Monday against a state lawmaker who became violent over a racist display at the Capitol.

Del. Mike Caputo had argued that an obscure law on “legislative immunity” shielded him from a misdemeanor battery charge for kicking a door into a statehouse staffer and pushing another politician with his elbow. It happened when Caputo became angry about a display outside the House of Delegates chamber on “WV GOP Day” last year that falsely linked U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman sided with Caputo, ruling that the delegate’s actions fell within the legislative immunity law, news outlets reported.

A lawyer for Caputo declined to comment.

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Caputo’s actions drew criticism at the time and he was later stripped of his committee assignments for the outburst. He has apologized and said he didn’t mean to hurt anyone but maintained he didn’t commit a crime.

ACT for America, the group whose name appeared on a sign next to the display, has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization issued a statement disavowing the images after they were circulated on social media. The state Republican party also condemned the display.

Caputo, who has served more than two decades in the House, is running for state Senate this year.

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